How loud is too loud for headphones?

Sep, 05, 2023

We’re sure that you, like many of us, were often told to turn down our music while growing up, but as time went on, we may have stopped thinking about the damage that could be caused by loud music.

However, pondering safe headphone volume is essential for all of us, including young people. The World Health Organisation has released a new standard to help raise awareness and prevent the growing number of individuals impacted by hearing loss. The data shows that over one billion individuals between the ages of 12 and 35 are losing their hearing due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud music and other recreational sounds.

Below, we cover safe decibel levels, how to check if your headphones are too loud, and some helpful preventative measures to lower your risk of noise-induced hearing loss

What are considered safe decibel levels?

When it comes to the question, "How loud is too loud for headphones?", the WHO provides clear guidelines as a part of their new global standard for safe listening. The recommended maximum average for your headphones is 100 decibels.

What does this mean? A decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement used to express the intensity or level of sound. Let's briefly break it down to understand what 100 decibels (dB) sound like. A whisper is usually around 30dB, a normal conversation sits at about 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner makes its way up to 70 dB, a lawn mower will be approximately 90 dB, and a rock concert or jet engine may be around 120 dB. 100 dB is usually associated with a noise like a motorcycle or a farm tractor.

How to check if your headphones are too loud

Understanding your headphone decibel level can help maintain a safe headphone volume. Most smartphones and audio devices have a maximum volume that exceeds safe decibel levels, reaching over 100. Many smartphones now come with built-in decibel monitors to monitor the output. However, a simple way to practise safe listening is using the 60-60 rule. The 60-60 rule suggests listening to your headphones at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

How to prevent hearing loss from headphones

If you want to prevent the risk of hearing loss, it's essential to practise safe listening habits. Below we have listed some tips to help you keep your ears safe:

  • Keep the volume to a maximum of 60% on your personal audio devices.
  • Use well-fitted, noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Take regular breaks from headphones use (preferably every 60 minutes).

When to seek help

Hearing loss can sometimes occur if you have not been using a safe headphone decibel level for a prolonged period of time. The symptoms to look out for include difficulty understanding others when speaking (which may occur more prominently when there is background noise), trouble hearing consonants, and  frequently having to ask people to speak more loudly or slowly.

If you have noticed these symptoms, booking a hearing test is a wise idea. Regular hearing check-ups can help detect early signs of hearing loss and help you organise appropriate treatment options.

Maintaining a safe headphone volume and being mindful of your headphone decibel level can prevent hearing loss. If you have any concerns about your hearing or want to learn more about hearing health and safe decibel levels, please don't hesitate to book an appointment with the friendly team at Bay Audiology.


News & Blog

Catch up on the latest news and stories on hearing health.
Learn more

Get support and advice

Request an appointment

Book now

Take an online hearing check

Take the check

Find a clinic near you

Find a clinic