MedicalMythMonday: Does Loud Music Cause Hearing Loss?
MedicalMythMonday investigates common myths about the human body and determines if they are true or false. Today, we answer the question: Does listening to loud music cause hearing loss?
Answer: Yes. Overuse of any body part can lead to temporary or permanent damage but there are precautions you can take.
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB): the higher the number, the louder the noise. Overexposure to sound over 85dB can be harmful. To give you a scope, normal conversations take place at 40-60dB and the sound of a plane taking off comes in at 120dB. Listening to music at full volume can expose you to 100-120dB of sound. If you listen to your music at just 60% of the full volume for 15 minutes or more, you increase your chances of permanent hearing loss.
How to know if the noise around you is too loud:
- You have to raise your voice to talk to other people
- You can’t hear what people nearby are saying
- It hurts your ears
- You have ringing in your ears or muffled hearing afterward
The signs of hearing loss include:
- Muffled sound and speech
- Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
- Frequently having to ask others to speak louder or repeat themselves
Hearing loss can lead to social withdrawal, isolation, and avoidance of social settings. If you suspect you have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your care team.
The good news is that there are ways to prevent hearing loss.
- Take at least five-minute breaks every hour
- Turn the volume down to a level that you can hear but is not too loud (ideally, 50% of max volume)
- Wear earplugs if you know you will in a loud environment such as a worksite or a concert
Take at least 18 hours of rest if you have been exposed to excessively loud sounds.