Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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

Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. While he’s out jogging, he listens to Pandora, while working it’s Spotify, and he has a playlist for everything he does: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden enjoys, the loud, immersive music, could be causing permanent damage to his hearing.

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

How can hearing loss be the result of listening to music?

Over time, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. We’re accustomed to thinking of hearing loss as an issue caused by aging, but more and more research suggests that it’s actually the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the issue here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.

Younger ears which are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-related damage. And yet, young adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term hazards of high volume. So because of extensive high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

Unlimited max volume is clearly the “hazardous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it normally involves turning the volume down. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume lower than 80dB.
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still fine but lower the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. Though that might seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. Even still, most individuals have a fairly solid idea of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re taught to do efficiently from a very young age.

Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t measured in decibels on the majority of smart devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You may not have a clue how close to max volume you are or even what max volume on your device is.

How can you monitor the volume of your music?

There are a few non-intrusive, easy ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not very easy for us to contemplate what 80dB sounds like. It’s even more difficult to determine the difference between 80 and 75dB.

That’s why it’s highly suggested you use one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will give you real-time readouts on the noises surrounding you. That way you can monitor the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. 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 loud.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can handle without damage.

So pay close attention and try to avoid noise above this volume. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, don’t forget to minimize your exposure. Perhaps listen to your favorite song at max volume instead of the whole album.

Listening to music at a loud volume can and will cause you to develop hearing issues over the long term. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the consequence. Your decision making will be more educated the more aware you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

Contact us if you still have questions about keeping your ears safe.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.