Music and Headphones: What’s a Safe Volume?

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 when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: cardio, cooking, video games, you name it. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the very thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, could be causing lasting harm to his hearing.

There are ways to listen to music that are safe for your ears and ways that aren’t so safe. But the more hazardous listening option is frequently the one most of us use.

How can listening to music lead to hearing loss?

As time passes, loud noises can lead to degeneration of your hearing abilities. Normally, we think of aging as the primary cause of hearing loss, but more and more research indicates that it’s really the accumulation of noise-induced damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the process of aging.

Younger ears that are still developing are, as it turns out, more susceptible to noise-induced damage. And yet, the long-term harm from high volume is more likely to be disregarded by young adults. So because of extensive high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in younger individuals.

Can you listen to music safely?

It’s obviously dangerous to listen to music on max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it usually involves turning down the volume. The general recommendations for safe volumes are:

  • For adults: Keep the volume at no more than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours per week..
  • For teens and young children: 40 hours is still okay but reduce the volume to 75dB.

About five hours and forty minutes per day will be about forty hours a week. Though that may seem like a long time, it can seem to pass rather quickly. But we’re conditioned to keep track of time our entire lives so most of us are pretty good at it.

Keeping track of volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t measured 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 track the volume of your tunes?

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

So using one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is highly advisable. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 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. Your smartphone will, with the correct settings, let you know when the volume goes too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is generally about 80 decibels. That’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can handle without damage.

So you’ll want to be extra mindful of those times when you’re moving beyond that decibel threshold. And limit your exposure if you do listen to music over 80dB. Maybe limit loud listening to a song instead of an album.

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

Give us a call if you still have questions about the safety of your ears.

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.