Discover the science behind the impact of loud music on hearing, and why it’s important to be mindful of your music’s volume.
Music can be beautiful and uplifting, and it’s a fun experience to listen whether you’re by yourself or with friends. However, it’s important to watch the volume on your music, whether you’re listening at home, on the go, or live at a concert.
Repeated exposure to loud noise can damage your hearing and potentially lead to hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the United States. The good news? With a few adjustments and precautions, it’s preventable!
You can protect your hearing while listening to music or attending concerts by understanding this helpful information:
- The impact of loud music on hearing over time
- Decibels of sound and their relation to hearing loss
- How to safely listen to music through headphones
- How to safely listen to music at concerts
To learn more about the impact of loud music on hearing, keep reading!
The Impact of Loud Music on Hearing Over Time
To understand the impact of loud music on hearing, we first need to understand how hearing works. The inner part of your ear contains small cells called hair cells, which convert vibrations from your eardrum and inner ear bones into electrical signals. The cells then carry those signals to the brain, where they’re translated into sounds.
Overuse of these hair cells from repeated exposure to loud music or other noises can cause damage, which can lead to hearing loss over time.
- How close you are to the speakers or source of the music
- The type of headphones you use, if you’re listening with headphones
- How long and how frequently you’re exposed to loud music
- How loudly the music is playing
Decibels of Sound and Their Relation to Hearing Loss
The loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB), which have safe levels and unsafe levels for hearing health. Anything above 85 decibels is considered unsafe for prolonged exposure and can potentially cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the quicker that hearing loss can happen.
When you’re exposed to sounds at 110 dB or higher, like a car horn, damage can occur within two minutes. At 120 dB, like an emergency siren, loud sounds can even start to cause pain. So how do these decibel levels factor into the music we listen to through our headphones and at concerts?
How to Safely Listen to Music Through Headphones
You don’t have to be at a loud concert to suffer from hearing loss — loud music through headphones can cause damage as well. In general, you should aim to keep the sound coming from your headphones between 60 and 85 dB — usually around the halfway mark on the volume bar. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of time you use your headphones to avoid overexposure.
One way to increase your safety while listening to music through headphones is using noise-canceling headphones. These can help you hear the music more easily and block out outside sounds, so you don’t have to turn the volume up higher than necessary.
How to Safely Listen to Music at Concerts
Live concerts have a magical aspect to them that’s hard to capture from an MP3, CD, or record. It’s exciting to think about all the live music that will be coming back in the near future, from summer outdoor concerts to bands at local restaurants and cafes.
However, it’s still essential to protect your ears if you attend a live event. Most concerts measure around 100 dB, with some rock concerts even measuring as high at 120 dB – around the same level as a chainsaw, and well above that safe decibel threshold.
Here are a few tips for protecting your hearing at concerts:
- Bring ear protection such as earplugs. It’s best to get high-quality or personalized earplugs to ensure you’re getting the protection you need.
- Stand safely away from speakers. While it’s fun to be at the front of the crowd, the further back you are from speakers, the better for your hearing health.
- Take breaks. About once an hour, give your ears a rest from the music by walking away for a moment or leaving to purchase drinks or snacks.
- Prioritize outdoor concerts. The music will be gentler on your ears in an outdoor environment because it isn’t as contained. It’s also much easier outside to pick a spot away from speakers and walk away to take breaks.
Once you’ve understood the impact of loud music on hearing, you can take steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. For more information on hearing loss and how to protect your hearing health, browse the other articles on the CapTel blog.