Music and Headphones: What's a Healthy 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 all his activities: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. His entire life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But irreversible hearing damage may be happening as a consequence of the very loud immersive music he enjoys.

For your ears, there are safe ways to listen to music and hazardous ways to listen to music. Unfortunately, the majority of us opt for the more dangerous 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 a problem associated with aging, but more and more research reveals that it’s really the accumulation of noise-related 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-induced damage. And yet, younger adults are more likely to be dismissive of the long-term hazards of high volume. So there’s an epidemic of younger people with hearing loss thanks, in part, to loud headphone use.

Is there a safe way to listen to music?

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

  • For adults: Keep the volume at less than 80dB and for no more than 40 hours a week..
  • For teens and young children: You can still listen for 40 hours, but the volume should still be 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.

Monitoring volume is a little less user-friendly. Volume isn’t gauged in decibels on most smart devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones. It’s measured on some arbitrary scale. It might be 1-100. But maybe it’s 1-16. You may not have any clue what the max volume on your device is, or how close to the max you are.

How can you track the volume of your music?

There are some non-intrusive, easy 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 understand the difference between 80 and 75dB.

So utilizing one of the numerous noise free monitoring apps is greatly suggested. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be obtainable from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your real dB level. Your smartphone will, with the proper settings, inform you when the volume goes too high.

As loud as a garbage disposal

Generally, 80 dB is about as noisy as your garbage disposal or your dishwasher. So, it’s loud, but it’s not too loud. It’s an important 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. If you do listen to some music above 80dB, remember to minimize your exposure. Maybe minimize loud listening to a song instead of an album.

Over time, loud listening will cause hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can be the outcome. The more you can be aware of when your ears are going into the danger zone, the more educated your decision-making can be. And ideally, those decisions lean towards safer listening.

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

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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.

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