What’s a Safe Listening Volume?

woman listening to music outside on bench

When you love a certain song or artist, it’s natural to turn up the volume. The higher volume makes your music sound more fun and immersive. This is why headphones are so popular. But, did you know that there are risks involved with always listening to loud volumes? Do you know what the recommended listening volumes are?

How Loud and Long Should You Wear Headphones?

Experts and audiologists suggest keeping the sound levels at somewhere between 60-85dBs to minimize the risk of causing hearing loss by damaging your ears. If you are listening to music that is around 100dBs, restrict your usage to about fifteen minutes. 

However, these are only guidelines, and the listening threshold will be different for each person. Know your own levels and protect your hearing with these ways to determine whether or not your headphones are causing damage to your hearing.

Carry Out the Ringing Test

This is an easy test that just needs a pair of foam earplugs. Take a few days off listening to loud music and using your headphones. After this break, go to a quiet room and place the earplugs in your ears. Focus on your hearing and try to relax. 

During the silence, you should be able to hear a very slight ringing in your ears. This is your baseline level. The next day, use your headphones as normal and then repeat the test in the evening. If the ringing is louder than it was in the previous test, the noise from your headphones is too loud. Repeat as often as you need to gauge the effect of your listening volume. When the ringing gets more intense than your baseline level, turn the volume down. 

Hold Your Headphones Out in Front of You

It’s easy to forget that you can damage your hearing by listening to loud music. One easy test is to remove your headphones, keep them at your usual listening volume, and hold them out in front of you at arm’s length. Can you still hear the music clearly?

If you can, turn it down, and try again. Always try to take regular breaks during the day to give your ears a break from your headphones. 

Check the Volume Control

Some music just sounds better when you listen to it at a louder volume. It’s so easy to just turn up the volume when your favorite song comes on. It is important, however, to get into more positive habits by making sure that the volume stays below the halfway mark. If you find your volume often creeps over two-thirds of the volume control or over 60%, then this will be too loud for your ears. Hearing loss might not happen overnight, but you can make it far less like by keeping a close eye on your listening volumes. 

Ask a Friend for Assistance

Ask a friend to sit beside you and see if they can hear your music through your headphones. If they can hear your music distinctly, then it is definitely too loud for your ears to handle. This test will work best if you don’t use open-back headphones, as these will leak music at whatever volume you listen at. If your friend can easily hear the sound when they sit next to you or across from you, then it’s time to turn the volume down a bit. 

Look Out for Signs of Hearing Loss

You could already be experiencing some symptoms of hearing loss and not realizing it. Look out for symptoms like:

  • Ringing, clicking, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in your ears
  • Difficulty hearing in loud venues
  • Muffled sounds
  • An increasing need to turn up the volume

If you notice these, see an audiologist to have your hearing checked. 

Measure the Sound Level with a Sound Meter

A sound meter or a decibel meter is a device that can be used to measure sound levels. With this device, you can use a decibel chart to check if your headphones are too loud.

However, keep in mind, that although many decibel charts will say 94dBs are the average sound levels for most personal audio devices, this is actually very loud. Keeping the volume about 10-20dBs lower than that will protect your ears and give them so relief from the loud volume. 

Sound meters are not always very accurate, but it can give you a reasonably good idea. The sound that is projected into your ears and the sound picked up by the meter can be very different, so use the measurement as a rough guide only.  If you’re worried about your hearing, contact The Hearing Doctors at (630) 315-2899.