Photo by Sascha Kohlmann/ CC BY-SA 2.0/ Edited from original

My kids have reached the age where they love to crank up whatever they’re listening to. Whether they’re listening to music on their headphones or watching a movie on the TV or their computer, the louder the better. Of course, this is terrible for their ears, and my husband and I are constantly asking them to turn the volume down. And while I certainly get the appeal — I still love cranking up the volume on my favorite songs when I’m driving — I think it’s important for all tweens and teens to understand the damage they can do to their hearing.

The good news for volume-cranking adolescents and teens everywhere is that summer is here. And not only is swimming great for heart health, but a new study shows that heart-boosting exercises like swimming can also improve “auditory attention” as you get older.

But that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to blast your music when you’re hanging out with your friends at the pool. Just because staying active can help your hearing over time doesn’t mean that you should feel free to crank up the volume in the short term. Don’t put yourself in the 12.5% of young people who’ve experienced noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). You can protect your ears by taking these steps:


Use earphones instead of earbuds

In its article on teens and hearing loss, The Hearing Review included some scary statistics. For example, it cites a US study that found that 46% of teens ages 13-19 had experienced ringing, buzzing, and other hearing problems after “engaging in risky hearing practices,” such as listening to loud music. The article also provides practical tips for preventing NIHL. For example, using headphones instead of earbuds can reduce the amount of sound going directly into your ears.


Know what level of sound causes damage

In order to prevent NIHL, it’s good to know how loud is too loud. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders explains that repeatedly listening to sounds above 85 decibels can lead to NIHL. It provides a helpful list of common sounds and their decibel levels to give you an idea of what 85 decibels might sound like. The NIDCD’s list is included below:

  • The humming of a refrigerator — 45 decibels
  • Normal conversation –– 60 decibels
  • Noise from heavy city traffic — 85 decibels
  • Motorcycles –– 95 decibels
  • An MP3 player at maximum volume — 105 decibels
  • Sirens — 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers and firearms — 150 decibels


Turn down the volume

This is a quick and easy way to protect your ears. In its information sheet on NIHL in adolescents and young adults, the National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center clarifies that the max volume levels that are offered on many devices are too loud, especially when using headphones. So, keep your hearing healthy by turning it down a couple of notches.


Understand that results are cumulative

Noise-induced hearing loss won’t necessarily happen right away. In its article on how to prevent hearing loss in children, the International Journal of Pediatrics explains that “noise exposure effects are cumulative.” So, just because your hearing is great now doesn’t mean that you aren’t causing damage that will show up later in life.


With summer here, you’ll probably be listening to music by the pool, in your car, during your workouts, and so on. It’s important to keep in mind that listening at too high a volume can damage your ears. Know that taking steps to protect your ears is something you’ll never regret.





Patricia Sarmiento is a health and fitness blogger who loves covering topics on health, wellness, fitness, and other health-related topics. A former high school and college athlete, she and her family make living an active lifestyle a constant goal. They live in Maryland.

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