Music is an important part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he’s listening to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for everything he does: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His headphones are just about always on, his life a totally soundtracked affair. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, may be causing lasting harm to his hearing.
For your ears, there are healthy ways to listen to music and unsafe ways to listen to music. However, most of us opt for the more hazardous listening choice.
How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?
Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. We’re used to thinking of hearing loss as an issue related to aging, but more and more research indicates that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.
It also turns out that younger ears are particularly susceptible to noise-induced damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, the long-term damage from high volume is more likely to be ignored by younger adults. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to high volume headphone use.
Is there a safe way to listen to music?
It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it normally involves turning down the volume. The general guidelines for safe volumes are:
- 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 keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours per week translates into roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly quickly. Even still, most people have a fairly solid concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do efficiently from a very young age.
The harder part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It could be 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. You may not have any idea how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.
How can you listen to music while monitoring your volume?
It’s not really easy to know how loud 80 decibels is, but thankfully 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.
So using one of the many noise free monitoring apps is highly advisable. These apps, widely available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises around you. That way you can track the dB level of your music in real-time and make adjustments. Or, when listening to music, you can also adjust your configurations in your smartphone which will efficiently let you know that your volume is too high.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s a relevant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can handle without damage.
So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times at which you’re going beyond that volume threshold. If you happen to listen to some music above 80dB, remember to minimize your exposure. Maybe listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. Your decision making will be more educated the more mindful you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Call us to explore more options.