How Loud Is Too Loud: A Guide to Headphones

Photo by Nickolai Kashirin

Have you ever sat next to someone listening to music on their headphones and been able to hear the music? If so, then you have been next to someone who probably has their headphones too loud. Standard headphones, when turned all the way up, can emit sound as loud as 110 decibels, the equivalent of strapping a power saw to each ear. Many people have no idea how much damage they are doing to their ears when they listen to music at a high volume for an extended period of time. Although many people think they are safe using headphones, hearing loss often occurs when our hearing becomes tired and we turn the volume up to compensate.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

Many studies have been performed to determine exactly how loud is too loud. The general consensus is that exposure to any sound louder than 85 to 90 decibels over an extended period of time can contribute to long-term hearing loss.

Is Hearing Loss From Headphones Common?

Hearing loss among teens is becoming particularly common these days, having increased 30 percent since the 1990s, and this phenomenon is largely blamed on hearing loss from headphones. Hearing professionals recommend that a person not listen to their audio devices through headphones for longer than 60 minutes a day or at more than 60 percent of the device’s maximum volume. Although there are many types of headphones, hearing loss may be caused by any of these if used at high volume for an extended period of time. And as the volume increases, the time needed to damage your hearing drops.

Are My Headphones Too Loud?

Many of us may be unaware that our headphones are too loud. A very simple way to see if they are too loud is to turn them on at the volume you normally listen at and then hold them at arm’s length. If you can still hear them, they are probably too loud. Another way to test is to have a friend sit next to you and see if they can hear your music. If they can, then your music is too loud and could be causing damage to your hearing. These two simple tests can help ensure that you are not damaging your ears.

How Can I Ensure That My Volume Never Goes Too High?

Fortunately, in today’s world, there are many ways to make sure a device’s volume never goes high enough to damage hearing. Headphones and earbuds on the market today that are specially made for kids include integrated volume control. These listening devices automatically limit the volume to no more than 90 decibels.

In general, headphones designed for adults do not include any type of volume-limiting technology, but the digital devices that they are connected to often do. For instance, a variety of Apple or Android apps allow you to set maximum sound levels for your device or the individual apps within it. Similarly, you can usually find volume limit controls under the Settings menu of your device.

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