Time to turndown the music

Does listening to music through headphones increase the risk you’ll  damage your hearing?

Loss of hearing can be caused by exposure to damaging levels of sound (‘leisure noise’) even if it is infrequent (some call it ‘binge listening’). 

Although ‘binge listening’ to ‘leisure noise’ sounds quite pleasant it actually means that if you indulge in too much of it you could be facing life with a hearing aid years down the track. Not great news if you’re 50 and even worse if you’re 25. 

Music to your ears? Half of the 360 million cases of hearing loss around the world are considered avoidable. 

Here are some tips to help you protect your hearing.

I hear you

Tiny hairs called stereocilia sit on the top of hair cells in the inner ear. Noise makes them vibrate, which then sends electrical messages through nerves to the brain. When the exposure to loud noise happens regularly or is prolonged, it can lead to permanent damage of the stereocilia, resulting in irreversible hearing loss. 
 
For your listening pleasure
 
Turn it off: The World Health Organization recommends we cut the amount of time we spend listening to music on our devices to just one hour a day.
 
Gently does it: Invest in a good-quality pair of headphones. They can have better bass quality, which means you don’t need to play your music too loudly and can be gentler on the ears. 
 
Break it up: Take frequent breaks from your music-playing device to give your ears a rest. Limiting the time you spend in very noisy places can also help.

No need to shout: Set the volume of your personal audio device at a level that means you can hear someone at arm’s length without them having to shout.

Keep it down: Resist the temptation to turn up the volume to drown out background noise. Try and use noise-cancelling headphones or older muff-type headphones if background noise is a problem; ear-bud or in-the-ear style headphones can let more noise in.
 
Oranges and lemons: Turning down the volume is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your chance of developing hearing loss, but there is some research that shows antioxidants like vitamins C and E, together with magnesium, may help lower your chance of hearing loss Don’t like oranges? Eat more capsicum or broccoli, which are richer sources of vitamin C. 
 
A good plug: Use hearing protection such as earplugs at concerts or music festivals.
 
Save the children: Educate your children about the importance of protecting their hearing from an early age. Why not get them into smartphone apps, like Decibel Meter, for a fun way to help keep their ears safe. 
 
young boy using headphones with phone

How loud is too loud?

60 decibels – not loud enough to cause damage, for example, a typical conversation.
85 decibels – loud enough to cause damage after eight hours, for example, a bulldozer that is idling but not actively bulldozing.
100 decibels plus – loud enough to begin causing permanent damage after just 15 minutes per day, for example, when listening to music on a device or phone at a maximum volume. Just over 105 decibels is equivalent to holding a chainsaw at arm’s length. 
 

Want to hear more?

Visit Know Your Noise, a website launched by Australian Hearing – and look for the Noise Risk Calculator, an online hearing check. Or check out 'What's That Sound' – an interactive game designed to show children what the world sounds like with hearing loss. Go to Know Your Noise and look under 'Hearing Resources'.
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