Music is an essential part of Aiden’s life. He listens to Spotify while working, switches to Pandora when jogging, and he has a playlist for everything: gaming, cooking, gym time, and everything else. Everything in his life has a soundtrack and it’s playing on his headphones. But irreversible hearing damage might be happening due to the very loud immersive music he enjoys.
There are ways to enjoy music that are healthy for your ears and ways that are not so safe. But the more hazardous listening choice is often 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. Normally, 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-related damage that is the problem here and not anything inherent in the aging process.
It also turns out that younger ears are especially susceptible to noise-related damage (they’re still growing, after all). And yet, younger adults are more inclined to be dismissive of the long-term dangers of high volume. So because of widespread high volume headphone usage, there has become an epidemic of hearing loss in young people.
Is there a safe way to listen to music?
It’s obviously dangerous to enjoy music at max volume. But merely turning down the volume is a less dangerous way to listen. 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: 40 hours is still fine but reduce the volume to 75dB.
About five hours and forty minutes a day will give you about forty hours a week. That may seem like a lot, but it can go by rather rapidly. Even still, most people have a fairly reliable concept of keeping track of time, it’s something we’re trained to do efficiently from a really young age.
The harder part is keeping track of your volume. On most smart devices, smartphones, and televisions, volume isn’t measured in decibels. It’s calculated on some arbitrary scale. Perhaps it’s 1-100. But perhaps 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 some non-intrusive, easy ways to determine 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 greatly recommended. Real-time volumes of the noise around you will be available from both iPhone and Android apps. In this way, you can make real-time alterations while monitoring your actual dB level. Or, while listening to music, you can also adjust your configurations in your smartphone which will automatically tell you that your volume is too loud.
The volume of a garbage disposal
Your garbage disposal or dishwasher is usually about 80 decibels. So, it’s loud, but it’s not that loud. It’s an important observation because 80dB is about as much noise as your ears can cope with without damage.
So you’ll want to be more mindful of those times when you’re going beyond that volume threshold. If you happen to listen to some music beyond 80dB, remember to limit 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 consequence. Your decision making will be more informed the more aware you are of when you’re entering the danger zone. And safer listening will ideally be part of those decisions.
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