Woman with long dark hair relaxing in a chair in the park listening to headphones

Aiden enjoys music. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are pretty much always on, his life a totally soundtracked affair. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, may be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.

As far as your ears are concerned, there are healthy ways to listen to music and dangerous ways to listen to music. But the more hazardous listening choice is usually the one most of us choose.

How can listening to music lead to hearing loss?

Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue related to aging, but more and more research reveals that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-related damage that is the problem here and not anything intrinsic to the process of aging.

Younger ears that are still developing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, younger adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term risks of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Can you enjoy music safely?

It’s obviously hazardous to listen to music on max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it typically involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be below 75dB.

Forty hours every week translates into about five hours and forty minutes per day. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by rather quickly. Even still, most people have a fairly reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do effectively from a very young age.

Monitoring volume is a little less intuitive. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it may be 1-10. You may not have any clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you listen to music while keeping track of your volume?

It’s not really easy to tell how loud 80 decibels is, but fortunately there are a few non-intrusive ways to tell how loud the volume is. Differentiating 75 from, let’s say, 80 decibels is even more perplexing.

That’s why it’s greatly recommended you utilize one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. Real-time readouts of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Or, while listening to music, you can also adjust your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too high.

The volume of a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is usually around 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can take without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, remember to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to have hearing issues over the long run. You can develop tinnitus and hearing loss. The more you can be aware of when your ears are entering the danger zone, the more informed your decision-making can be. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.

Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Call us to explore more options.

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