Music is a major part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while at work, switches to Pandora while jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, gym time, cooking, and everything else. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But the exact thing that Aiden loves, the loud, immersive music, might be causing lasting 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 use.
How does listening to music cause hearing loss?
Your ability to hear can be compromised over time by exposure to loud noise. Normally, we think of aging as the primary cause of hearing loss, but more recent research is showing that hearing loss isn’t an inherent part of aging but is instead, the result of accumulated noise damage.
Younger ears that are still growing are, as it turns out, more vulnerable to noise-induced damage. And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term dangers of high volume. So because of widespread high volume headphone use, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young individuals.
Can you listen to music safely?
It’s obviously hazardous to enjoy music at max volume. But there is a safer way to enjoy your tunes, and it normally involves turning the volume down. Here are a couple of general guidelines:
- For adults: 40 hours or less of weekly listening on a device and keep the volume below 80dB.
- For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but keep the volume level below 75dB.
Forty hours per week is about five hours and forty minutes a day. That seems like a lot, but it can go by rather rapidly. But we’re taught to monitor time our whole lives so most of us are pretty good at it.
The more challenging part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, computers, and televisions, volume is not measured in decibels. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. Or it might 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 keep tabs on the volume of your tunes?
It’s not very easy to know 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 use one of numerous free noise monitoring apps. These apps, generally available for both iPhone and Android devices, will provide you with8 real-time readouts on the noises surrounding 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 gets too loud.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Typically, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. That’s not too loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as loud as your ears can take without damage.
So you’ll want to be more aware of those times when you’re going beyond that decibel threshold. And minimize your exposure if you do listen to music above 80dB. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song rather than an album.
Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the result. The more you can be aware of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making will be. And hopefully, those decisions lean towards safer listening.
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