How to listen to music safely

Turning up the volume of your favorite song and jamming out is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood. Unfortunately, it can also damage your hearing if done unsafely. The WHO estimates that 50% of teenagers and young adults in middle- and high-income countries are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from personal devices.

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can damage the hearing cells inside your ears and cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Once these cells are damaged, there is no fixing them. That doesn’t mean you can never rock out to your favorite song again, it just means you have to do so safely.

Check out these five tips on how listen to music safely:

Use headphones instead of earbuds

In general, over-ear headphones are a better choice than small earbuds. Not only sit earbuds closer to the eardrum, they also block out less outside noise, tempting you to turn up the volume.

Ideally, your headphones of choice are noise cancelling, as well. This technology utilizes a sound signal that cancels out ambient noise, thus allowing you to keep the volume down while staying unbothered about sounds around you.

Stick to the 60/60 rule

Not all loud noise immediately damages your hearing; the volume and duration play a big part in how damaging certain sounds are. A sound as high as 100 dB (about as loud as a motorcycle) becomes damaging after more than 15 minutes a day.

Experts recommend listening to something at 60% of your device’s full output for 60 minutes before taking a break.

Control the volume

Most smartphones will alert you if you turn up the volume to unsafe levels. If you frequently feel tempted to ignore this warning, make changes to your device’s volume settings. Many smartphones allow you to set a maximum volume level, so it’s harder to mindlessly turn up the sound too much.

Use earplugs

Earplugs might be associated with light sleepers who need to tune out their partner’s snoring, but they can do much more than that.

Any loud environment has the potential to do irreversible damage to your hearing. Concerts are especially notorious for causing next-day hearing loss or tinnitus. Over time, this can lead to permanent hearing loss and other conditions. 

Reusable earplugs specifically designed for concerts help protect your hearing without muffling music. They come at a higher price than earplugs from the drugstore but go a long way in protecting your hearing.

Give your ears a break

As mentioned, length and frequency of exposure to loud sounds are just as important as the volume. 

In addition to taking a break from listening to music on your phone once an hour, you should plan on taking breaks in other situations, too. Step outside regularly at nightclubs, sporting events and other loud venues. Move away from speakers at concerts and take a break between acts at music festivals.

As more and more teenagers and young adults own smartphones, it’s important to be aware of the damage listening to loud volumes even on small devices can do. In addition to making sure you listen to music safely, check out other ways you can protect your hearing: 5 ways to reduce your chances of hearing loss and tinnitus