How Loud Should Your Music Be to Prevent Hearing Loss?

Young girl listening to music with headphones

Any sound that’s too loud can damage your hearing permanently. The more intense or loud the noise is, the faster damage occurs. This is commonly referred to as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and it’s an everyday occurrence in our modern world. The longer the noise goes on, the worse the damage will be.

There are many times that noise-induced hearing loss is unavoidable; the hustle and bustle of our normal life can bring us in contact with environmental noise hazards. Music-induced hearing loss (MIHL) is a version of NIHL that’s specifically caused by music. MIHL occurs in people who frequently listen to or play music, and it’s on the rise.


What is Music-Induced Hearing Loss?

Sadly, MIHL is so common that the World Health Organization (WHO) put out a warning in 2015:  1.1 billion young people were at risk of hearing loss due to music on their devices and increasingly loud concert venues. Sound at these venues can reach up to 120dB for several hours. That’s as loud as a construction site, riflery range, or thunderclap. Many people are entirely unaware of the risks involved with listening to loud music for a prolonged period. Here is a list of the 5 hearing disorders that can be caused by MIHL:

  • Total or partial hearing loss: the inability to perceive sounds
  • Sound distortion: the inability to differentiate between sounds like “s” and “t,” which often blur together
  • Tinnitus: perceiving whistling, buzzing, or roaring sounds when there are none
  • Hyperacusis: a decrease in sound tolerance that increases physical discomfort from sounds that are completely tolerable to others
  • Diplacusis: pitch distortion, including pitches sounding different in each ear or an inability to match pitches


What Music Volume Will Prevent Hearing Loss?

The World Health Organization says sounds occurring at 80 dB and below are safe during long periods of time for human ears. Other organizations like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) say safe sounds occur at or below 85 dB ad 90 dB respectively. All three agree that prolonged exposure to sounds above 90 dB is harmful to hearing.

Using a decibel app on your phone, you can measure the current volume of your environment. So long as the noise in your immediate vicinity is below these levels, you’ll be able to head off hearing loss before it happens. Using a decibel app at all times isn’t a very effective solution, but there aren’t many alternatives. With an organ as complex as the ear, loud noises, even for a few seconds, can cause damage. That’s why it’s important to have an audiologist you trust. If you have concerns about your hearing, give the experts at Amdahl a call.

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.