Music is an important 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: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. His headphones are just about always on, his life a completely soundtracked affair. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be contributing to permanent damage to his hearing.
There are ways to enjoy music that are safe for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more dangerous listening choice is usually the one most of us choose.
How does listening to music result in hearing loss?
As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. Typically, we think of aging as the principal cause of hearing loss, but more and more research reveals that it’s really 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 especially vulnerable to noise-induced damage (they’re still developing, after all). And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by younger adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger people.
Can you enjoy music safely?
Unregulated max volume is obviously the “hazardous” way to listen to music. But there is a safer way to listen to your tunes, and it normally involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of basic recommendations:
- For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
- For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours every week is roughly five hours and forty minutes per day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by fairly rapidly. But we’re conditioned to monitor time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
The more challenging part is monitoring your volume. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. Each device has its own arbitrary scale. It may be 1-100. Or it could be 1-10. 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 listen to tunes while monitoring your volume?
There are a few non-intrusive, simple ways to determine just how loud the volume on your music really is, because it’s not all that easy for us to contemplate exactly what 80dB sounds like. It’s even harder to understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.
That’s why it’s highly recommended you use one of numerous cost-free noise monitoring apps. 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 keep track of the dB level of your music in real-time and make alterations. Or, when listening to music, you can also adjust your settings in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too high.
As loud as a garbage disposal
Generally, 80 dB is about as loud as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s a significant observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.
So pay close attention and try to stay away from noise above this volume. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe listen to your favorite song at full volume instead of the entire album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing problems. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re going into the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
Still have questions about keeping your ears safe? Contact us to go over more options.