Apple has done research on how many decibels we expose our hearing to. It came from information from 130,000 people using their iPhones and Apple Watches that 1 in 3 adults expose themselves to excessive noise. That is noise above 70 decibels
Almost everyone uses headphones at some point. Some people swear by over-the-ear headphones, while others prefer small earplugs that you hardly notice. Headphones allow people to enjoy music and have conversations anytime, anywhere.
Despite the convenience of headphones and their increased utility, questions have arisen about the safety of their use. There is such a thing as healthy headphone use; you just need to know what safe noise levels are and when to take a break. The inner ear is very sensitive to the sound it perceives. Your ear contains thousands of cells, some with hair-like structures. Those hair cells transmit sound to the brain, which processes it further. Excessive noise can cause permanent damage to those cells and that means that the sound is no longer transmitted properly.
What’s too loud?
One of the most important things about using headphones is that personal listening devices are set to a maximum volume of about 105 to 110 decibels. That’s a lot. An airplane taking off or a chainsaw are at 110-120 decibels. Normal talking is about 65 dB.
Exposure to sound levels of more than 85 dB (which is approximately the sound of a lawnmower) can cause hearing damage after exposure for more than two hours. Sound of 105 to 110 dB can cause damage within five minutes. Sound less than 70 dB is unlikely to cause significant damage to the ears, so that’s what you want. The maximum volume of earplugs is therefore always above the threshold at which damage occurs and you should realize that. It’s very easy to think: well, it’s been tested through and through, it’s probably not that bad for me. However, that is not wise: earplugs can be much and much too loud: don’t do it.
There are certainly clues to consider if your music is too loud. For example, if you regularly have headaches, there is a chance that it is due to loud music or podcasts. Some people even start to hear ringing in their ears, or ringing: then you are really going too far and it may even be too far. After all, you don’t want to contract Tinnitus, a hearing problem that will never go away for some people.
Two other tips are: if people can hear your music, then it’s too loud, and if you in turn can’t have a conversation with people with your earbuds in, then your music is too loud. Do you have to consider how much too hard you probably have it on. You are not alone in this: it is not for nothing that manufacturers such as Sony come up with ‘ambient’ mode, which allows you to have a short conversation and the sound is muted. That is actually not so good at all, because it invites you to listen to loud music and use that mode for conversations. Handy and fun, but not for your hearing.
In addition to the volume, the duration of sound exposure is also an important factor that contributes to possible hearing damage. Louder sounds can cause more damage with less exposure. For example, experts recommend that employees of companies should not be exposed to 85 dB for more than eight hours on average.
Ultimately, the answer to the question is of course: you should listen to music, podcasts or video calls as briefly and quietly as possible. But that is difficult to achieve. There are therefore rules of thumb to stick to and you can use apps for that: after all, you cannot know by heart how loud 85 or 100 dB is. A decibel meter is available on iPhones and Apple Watch, but you can also use the DB Meter Pro app (also useful for people with an Android). If you don’t know, try not to turn the volume higher than 50 percent.
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