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How to Know if Your Music Is Damaging Your Hearing

You naturally want to crank up the volume when you’re listening to your favorite tunes. However, listening to music that’s too loud, for too long can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Hearing loss from exposure to harmful noise can happen at any age, but it’s particularly increasing among teenagers, with one out of six showing some signs of hearing loss, according to a 2014 study. The possible culprit is the rise of the MP3 player and earbuds, which provide a nearly endless stream of music that’s channeled directly into the ear. Since earbuds don’t block out noise in the environment, listeners dial up the volume to block outside noise.

how-to-know-if-your-music-is-damaging-your-hearingHow Loud Is too Loud?

Many MP3 listeners play their music louder than what audiologists define as a safe decibel level. To provide some perspective, according to the National Institutes of Health:

  • The quietest sound most humans can hear is 20 decibels
  • The hum of a refrigerator is typically 45 decibels
  • A normal conversation is 60 decibels
  • A motorcycle is 95 decibels
  • An MP3 player at top volume is 105 decibels
  • A rock concert can range from 110 to 140 decibels

Sounds below 75 decibels are considered safe and unlikely to cause hearing loss. Sounds at 85 decibels and above can lead to hearing loss, and the longer you’re exposed to music at that level, the more likely it is that you’ll suffer damage to your hearing.

How to Tell if You Have Hearing Loss

Damage to hearing from noise exposure can occur gradually, and you may not even notice it until you start to have difficulties. You should see a doctor if you experienceringing in your ears or muffled hearing for more than 24 hours after exposure to loud music, such as at a rock concert. You should also have your hearing checked if:

  • People seem to mumble and slur their words.
  • you have to ask people to repeat themselves often.
  • Friends or family members frequently ask you to turn down the television, yet it doesn’t seem that loud to you.
  • You can more easily hear men’s voices than women’s. Hearing loss often affects your ability to hear higher sounds first.

How to Protect Your Hearing

You can still enjoy music while protecting your hearing. A rule of thumb is to turn your music down to 60 percent of the maximum volume. If you want to turn it up louder than that, limit the amount of listening time. One expert says it’s fine to crank up the volume for one favorite song but then go back to a lower level.

Switch to listening to music with headphones instead of earbuds when possible. Headphones muffle outside noise so that you don’t have to raise the volume as high. If you’re listening to music without headphones, you can tell it’s too loud if you have to shout to talk to someone in the room with you. Finally, wear earplugs to rock concerts and stand at least 10 feet away from the speakers. Rest your ears afterward for 24 hours to let them recover.

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