While loud music can be exciting, you should be aware that loud noise and unsafe listening practices, also known as headphone volume abuse, are contributing to rising rates of hearing loss.
Wonder how loud is too loud for headphones? Want to know the answer for you to be aware?
Don’t worry if you enjoy listening to music at high volumes! This guide will show you how to tell if your headphones are too loud and what you need to know to avoid hearing loss. Let’s get started.
WHAT MAKES LISTENING TO LOUD HEADPHONES BAD?
Long periods of listening to headphones at high volumes may result in a variety of hearing problems, including:
- Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, or other noise sensation in the ears.
- Imbalance: Your brain receives impulses from your eyes, inner ear, muscles, and joints to help maintain balance. As a result, ear damage can disrupt this system, causing you to feel dizzy or off-balance.
- Sensitivity. Your ear may become sensitive to everyday sounds, making them appear louder than usual.
- Noise can cause permanent hearing loss by damaging the sound-receptive nerve fibers in the inner ear.
HOW LOUD IS ‘TOO LOUD’ FOR HEADPHONES?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends listening to headphones at a volume level of 85 decibels (dB) for no more than 8 hours. The average audio device, on the other hand, has a sound level ranging from 75 to 136 dB.
When listening to the audio, most people keep the sound levels between 75 and 105 decibels. As a result, you must understand how to rate the sound levels of your headphones in order to limit your listening time.
Listening to more than 85dB, on the other hand, is already marked red and can cause irreversible damage. While you may not realize it, listening to headphones at 105dB or higher for extended periods of time is equivalent to someone shouting into your ear for hours.
You can try to determine the sound of each decibel-rated noise level by comparing it to other sounds in your environment. An 85 dB noise level, for example, is comparable to heavy city traffic, a crowded hotel lobby, or a garbage disposal system.
However, that isn’t usually accurate so you can still be at risk of the different hearing problems accustomed to loud headphone volumes. That’s why we’ve listed down some surefire ways to check if your headphones are too loud in the next section.
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6 WAYS TO CHECK IF YOUR HEADPHONES ARE TOO LOUD:
1. Carry Out The Ringing Test
Ringing in the ears can feel like whistling, hissing, buzzing, or even clicking. The ringing is not audible to those around you, and it can occur in one or both of your ears. Tinnitus does not always manifest as ringing in the ears.
When you are in a quiet environment, you may hear phantom ringing. Not all ear ringing is audible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s why this test can tell you if you’re already experiencing ringing in your ears without even realizing it.
This test requires only a pair of foam earplugs and a quiet environment. To accomplish this, refrain from using headphones or listening to music for at least 2-3 days. After this time, go to a quiet place and insert the earplugs.
Concentrate on your hearing. Relax as much as possible, focus on your breathing, and remain completely still. The following day, resume normal headphone use. Then, in the evening, repeat the test in a quiet location.
If the ringing is louder than it was in the previous test, your headphones are producing too much noise. Repeat as regularly as you need to in order to gauge the effectiveness of the volume level. When the ringing becomes more intense than your baseline level, it is time to turn it down a notch or two.
2. Hold Your Headphones Out In Front Of You
Another test we recommend is determining whether you can hear your headphones from a distance. Remove your headphones while the music is still playing, and keep them at your normal volume level.
Then, hold them out at arm’s length in front of you. Can you clearly hear the music? If this is the case, try turning it down and repeating it.
3. Check The Volume Control
There’s no denying that some music is better listened to at a higher volume. And it’s so simple to turn up the volume when your favorite song starts playing.
However, it is critical to establish positive habits by keeping the volume below 60% of the maximum. If it creeps up to more than two-thirds of the volume control or more than 60%, it is too much for your ears. Hearing loss does not happen overnight, but it can be avoided by regularly monitoring those volumes.
4. Ensure You Don’t Struggle To Hear People Around You
If you struggle to pick out sounds in your environment when wearing your headphones, then your volume may be too loud.
You need to adjust the sound until you can maintain a conversation with someone in the same room. Try turning down the volume until your friend doesn’t sound muffled.
5. Look Out For Signs Of Hearing Loss
You may already be experiencing hearing loss symptoms and are unaware of them. This can happen if you listen to your headphones at a high volume. Loud noise can overwork and damage the hair cells in the ear, causing you to lose your hearing gradually.
Keep an eye out for symptoms such as:
- Ear ringing, clicking, roaring, hissing, or buzzing
- Hearing difficulties in noisy environments
- Sounds that are muffled
- A growing need to keep cranking up the volume
6. Measure The Sound Level With A Sound Meter
A sound meter, also known as a decibel meter, is a device that measures sound levels in decibels (dB). You can use this device and the decibel chart above to determine if your headphones are too loud for you.
Take note that, despite the fact that 94 dB is the average sound level for personal audio devices, it is still quite loud. Keeping the sound level 10 – 20 decibels lower will provide significant relief to your ears in the long run. Follow these steps to accurately measure volume with a sound meter:
- Connect your headphones to your audio source and listen to a song or sound at your normal volume.
- Put on your headphones and activate your decibel meter.
- Attach the decibel meter mic to the inside of one of your headphones’ earcups. The decibel meter’s LED screen should automatically display the current dB level.
- Manually adjust the device volume until it is less than 85dB.
If purchasing a sound meter is out of your price range, you can experiment with various apps that can transform your devices into a virtual volume measuring devices. Among our top picks are the following:
- For Android: Sound Meter
- For iOS: Decibel X
- For Windows: Decibel Meter
Alternative Video: How Loud Is Too Loud For Headphones?
HOW TO WEAR HEADPHONES WITHOUT DAMAGING YOUR HEARING?
While headphones and earbuds pose a risk of hearing loss, they aren’t entirely bad for your ears. It all depends on how you employ them.
To avoid all of these concerns, here is a list of a few precautionary measures that will ensure you use your headphones safely. Let’s get started:
- Stick to the 60/60 rule.
- Use volume restrictions.
- Make use of noise-canceling headphones.
- Select the best-fitting headphones.
- Make use of Equalizers
1. Be Faithful To The 60/60 Rule
It can be tempting to turn up the volume on your favorite playlist so you can listen to it for an extended period of time. However, you should not do so. Instead, audiologist Dr. Kelly Conroy recommends sticking with the 60/60 rule.
Set the volume on your headphones to 60% and listen to music for no more than 60 minutes at a time. Remove your headphones and, if necessary, charge them after 60 minutes. This pause allows the tiny hair cells in your ear canal to rest and recover from all of the vibrations.
2. Utilize Volume Limits
There are two types of volume limits you can rely on to limit your exposure to loud sounds. They include built-in and settings-based volume limits.
Let’s break down each type:
- Built-in volume limits
Volume-limiting headphones are primarily intended for children and those with sensitive hearing. These headphones have built-in volume controls, and the sound level is set to a standard of 85dB.
While some volume-limiting headphones allow you to switch between 85 and 96 dB, built-in volume limits cannot be bypassed, so you can’t adjust the settings to make the volume any louder than that.
- Volume restrictions based on settings
If you don’t want to buy new headphones with built-in limits, you can set volume limits directly from your audio source, whether it’s a smartphone or tablet.
Here’s how to get to the volume limit controls on your iPhone and Android devices, respectively:
How to enable volume limits on iPhone
- Head to Settings and select Sound & Haptics.
- Select Headphone Safety.
- Toggle the Reduce Loud Sounds button and set the sound level to a maximum of 85 decibels.
How to enable volume limits on Android
- Head to Settings and select Sounds and Vibration.
- Then select Volume.
- At the top right corner, tap the three buttons and select the Media volume limit.
- Toggle the off button to ‘On’ to customize the media volume limit.
3. Use Noise-canceling Headphones
You may need to crank up the volume on your headphones at times to drown out background noise. You could avoid this by using noise-canceling headphones instead. Noise-canceling headphones can be passive or active.
The latter is recommended because it actively cancels out unwanted background noise by emitting sound waves that oppose the incoming sound waves from the environment. Passive noise-canceling headphones, also known as noise-isolating headphones, only create a physical barrier in your ears to muffle background noise.
4. Choose Good-fitting Headphones
The fit of the headphones also influences how well the noise cancellation works. Because they can’t completely seal your ears, loose-fitting headphones can also let in unwanted background noise.
This can give the impression that your music isn’t loud enough, forcing you to turn it up past the recommended volume levels. To combat this, find a pair of well-fitting headphones that form a good seal over your ears.
People who wear glasses may feel that earbuds are a better option than over-ear headphones in this regard. However, we recommend that you stick with the latter. Earbuds can cause more damage than over-ear headphones because they must be inserted so close to the ear canal.
5. Utilize Equalizers
While lowering headphone volume can help prevent ear damage, it is not always effective. This is due to the fact that some sound frequencies, even when played at low volumes, can be more dangerous than others.
Even at the same volume, high-pitched noise (highs) is more damaging than low-pitched noise (lows). The highs can make your ears more sensitive because they apply a lot of pressure to your eardrum.
Lows, on the other hand, are more tolerable in the ear, but prolonged vibrations can also destroy hair cells. You should consider customizing the equalizer settings on your headphones to get around this.
For safer listening, use the equalizer to balance the highs, mids, and lows. You can tweak the frequencies until you get a good sound that doesn’t hurt your ears.
RECOMMENDED VOLUME FOR LISTENING TO HEADPHONES
Volume is measured in decibels (dB). To be safe, scientists recommend that prolonged listening be between 60 and 85 decibels. However, young people must be especially cautious because their hearing is more sensitive and more easily damaged.
Long-term hearing loss should be avoided by keeping children’s headphones at a maximum of 82 dB. If you’re unfamiliar with decibels, these figures will be meaningless to you. Let us put this in context.
- A wristwatch is at around 20 dB.
- The sound of a soft whisper is about 30 dB.
- The volume of normal conversation is about 60 decibels.
- An alarm clock sits at around 80 dB, though this can be misleading as alarm clocks are sudden, so feel louder.
- Heavy traffic in a city is around 80 dB level too.
- On the other extreme, firearms are at about 150 dB.
This is far too audible. At these decibel levels, we wear hearing protection to protect our ears. When you turn up the volume on most MP3 players, phones, and other listening devices, the decibel levels exceed the recommended levels when using headphones.
They can typically reach 105 decibels. If you’re going to listen to these levels, you should only do so for a short period of time (10 minutes).
It’s tempting to turn up the volume on your headphones to drown out background noise, but it’s not worth the risk. Listening at half the available volume is generally safe for most headphones, reaching around 60-80 dB.
HOW TO KNOW IT’S TOO LOUD WHEN LISTENING?
If you’re listening to your music around other people, they shouldn’t be able to hear it. Set it to a comfortable level before putting on the headphones. Check with others in the area to see if they can hear the sound.
The only time sound leakage is acceptable is when using open-back headphones. If you are not in the presence of others, you can perform a simple test. Set the headphones to the volume you would normally listen to.
Then hold them at arm’s length away from you in your hands. It’s too loud if you can still hear the audio clearly. Make sure you do this away from loud noises to ensure a fair test. This is not a scientific method, but it is a good way to determine whether decibel levels are higher than they should be.
Hopefully, you now have everything you need to reduce the risk of early hearing loss in your children. You will not have to remove your headphones, but you will need to learn how to set volume limits and limit your listening time.
With time, you’ll appreciate the 60-minute music breaks that allow your fears to rest. It will also allow you to create a new playlist for your next listening session.
FAQs About Headphone Volumes
How many decibels is too loud for headphones?
We can see from the chart that anything below 85 dB isn’t considered a risk to your hearing. This is why you can listen to 85 dB audio for up to 8 hours without risking noise-induced hearing loss. Listening to more than 85dB, on the other hand, is already marked red and can cause irreversible damage.
Are 95 decibels (dB) too loud for headphones?
According to the U.S. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, hearing loss occurs in seconds when the exposure level exceeds 110 dB. That means that even if you listen to music for 30 minutes a day at 95 decibels, you may still have hearing loss in two or three years.
Is 50 dB too loud for headphones?
Headphones and earbuds can reach 100 dB or higher, so a safe level is 50 to 60% of the maximum volume. This protects our hearing and allows us to listen to our favorite music for longer periods of time.
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