When you’re really in the moment and are listening to your favorite song, it can be tempting to crank the up volume and feel every beat as it pulses through your ears. But sadly, our ears are not designed to listen to loud noises, and exposure to loud music can be just as damaging as working with power-tools without ear protection.
How loud music can damage your hearing
Inside our ears are thousands of hair cells (stereocilia) whose job is to pick up sounds and turn them into electrical signals that can be interpreted by our brains. We now know that these hair cells can become damaged, permanently, when exposed to sounds at 70dB (decibels) or above, which isn’t very loud when you consider that most night club music is played at 110dB and that the maximum setting on your headphones can also reach 105dB
When our ears are exposed to these loud noises, the hair cells get overstimulated and stop responding to sound, which can lead to temporary hearing loss. However, over time, it can lead to permanent hearing loss. Aside from potentially losing your hearing for good, exposure to loud music and loud noises can also cause tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in your ears, which can be extremely irritating.
How to listen to music safely
Sadly, the only way to protect your ears from becoming damaged by loud noises is by reducing your exposure to them. This means that you need to start turning down the volume on your headphones and put some protective measures in place when visiting nightclubs and festivals. Here are some things that can help you to look after your ears.
When listening through headphones
Headphones literally blast music directly into your ear canal, which can cause significant damage over time. Some of the things that you can do to protect your ears include:
- Taking breaks
To stop your hair cells from becoming overstimulated, try to take regular breaks of at least five minutes once every hour or so. Take your headphones out and allow your ears to re-adjust to a normal noise level before starting your music again – this will also help to prevent you from turning the music up when you start to become desensitized to how loud it is.
- Limit your volume
- Many devices now come with a volume limiter setting, which allows you to set a maximum volume level. If you have this on your device, then set it to 85dB so that you are unable to damage your ears with noises louder than this accidentally.
- Take note of your phone’s safety warning
Phone manufacturers know that playing loud music can damage your hearing, which is why they have to display a safe volume level warning on your phone when you turn the volume up past a certain level. This warning is there for a reason – so listen to it!
- Turn down your volume
If you want to listen to music through your headphones for an extended period of time, then turn the volume down just a notch, and you will be able to enjoy your music safely for longer.
- Use noise-canceling headphones
If you’re commuting to work on a busy subway or are trying to listen to music when on a busy street, then quite often you will need to have the volume turned up to simply drown out the sound of traffic and other people. Noise-canceling headphones can help remove this noise so that you can lower your volume and listen to your music safely.
When listening at a nightclub or festival
At a nightclub or festival, you may not be in control over the volume of the music, but there are still things that you can do to protect your hearing.
- Wear earplugs
Custom earplugs won’t drown out the music altogether, and they also won’t stifle it, they just help to bring the volume down to a safe level. Keep a pair with you and wear them when inside the venue. If you’re worried about what other people will think, then there are many brands of earplugs that are virtually invisible.
- Don’t dance near the speakers
It may seem obvious, but try to stay away from the speakers if you can, as this is where the music will be the loudest. Instead, dance the night away somewhere a little further away (this applies to scenarios such as clubs, concerts, and parties).
- Give your ears a break
Make use of chill-out-zones or the smoking area of a nightclub to get away from loud music for a bit to allow your ears to rest.
Remember – you only have one pair of ears to last you your lifetime, and the action you take now will dictate the hearing that you have in the future. So look after your ears and stay safe!
Thank you for reading!