Can Loud Music Hurt Your Ears?

Hearing experts encourage Americans to turn down the volume

Ameritas Insight Hearing Youth

A discussion of music often sparks strong opinions, including preferences of artists, styles and vocals. Some people enjoy music as background sound, while others play it loud enough to make the speakers rumble.

Loud music isn’t new. But new research has identified the effect of prolonged exposure to loud noises, such as music, in causing both temporary and permanent hearing loss.

Twenty years ago the boom box and portable CD players were popular listening equipment. While you could crank up the volume, the equipment was sometimes inconvenient to use and required frequent battery changes.

Music became easier to listen to with the development of personal listening players. These devices not only featured ear-bud headphones and high-tech batteries, but brought music closer to the ear and made nonstop, 24-hour listening a possibility.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, today’s teens are listening longer to loud music, more than twice as long as previous generations. Many hearing experts believe people are losing their hearing at much younger ages than they did 30 years ago.

How Loud is too Loud?
To determine if the volume level is too high, use this evaluation tool. If the noise around you is so loud that you have to shout or talk very loudly to be heard, or people have to raise their voices so you can hear them over your music, it is likely that your hearing can be injured.

Temporary hearing loss can result after exposure to loud noises for any duration. After being in a loud environment, some individuals have reported not being able to hear normally for a while. Others have noticed a slight hearing loss that doesn’t improve, and they no longer can distinguish soft sounds, such as whispering, water dripping, rustling leaves or some consonant sounds in words.

Tips for Identifying a Hearing Problem

Individuals with hearing issues often do not want to admit that they may have a problem. Review these guidelines to identify a potential hearing concern:

  • You hear only parts of conversations, and it sounds like people are mumbling
  • You frequently ask people to repeat that they’ve said
  • Friends and family members tell you that you don’t hear very well
  • You don’t laugh at jokes because you miss some of the details
  • You ask others to review what is said in class or in a meeting
  • People tell you that you play music or the TV too loud
  • You can’t hear the doorbell or the telephone ring

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician. You may be referred to a hearing specialist to evaluate your hearing, determine the area in your ear where the hearing problem exists and identify treatment options.

Maintain your hearing for life by wearing ear protection when in loud environments. And remember to turn down the volume on music-listening devices, especially when using ear-bud headphones.

Have you, or someone you know, experienced a hearing problem? What was the source of the problem? What steps were taken to improve this person’s hearing? Share your stories and I’ll post them in a future blog. – Scott Delisi, Ameritas Group