WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

Music and Hearing Loss: How Loud is Too Loud?

By Jon McKenna
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on February 16, 2021
It’s a good idea to take steps to protect your hearing if you go to lots of concerts or love to listen to music through headphones.

Music may have charms to soothe a savage beast but at a high enough volume, it also can produce noise-induced hearing loss. Whether you go to concerts every other week or wear headphones for hours at a time, being careful will help protect and preserve your good hearing.

Loud Music and Hearing Loss

Exposure for long periods of 95 decibels or more of noise (the level for headphones at maximum volume and for concerts) is risky to your hearing, Stephen DeMari, AuD, director of business development and education for CaptionCall in Salt Lake City, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

At concerts, that risk isn’t limited to musicians, Dayna Edwin, MSc, BSc, MSHAA, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Rock and heavy metal concert attendees are most at risk because of the amplified noise levels from short, sharp sounds like drums can get at these shows,” Edwin says.

DeMari and Edwin offer these suggestions for protecting your hearing when listening to loud music:

  • Before going to a concert, invest in over-the-counter earplugs that reduce all music frequencies equally until the volume level is safe for your hearing. “Or, your audiologist can help fit you with a pair of custom musician earplugs,” DeMari says.
  • As an alternative to custom earplugs, foam earplugs can be bought at hardware or outdoor stores. “Foam plugs cut out some frequencies more than others,” Edwin says.
  • Buy concert tickets that situate you well away from speakers. “The closer you are to the loud sound, the higher the risk,” DeMari says.
  • Walk away from the concert regularly, say every hour or so, to a quieter concourse or bathroom.
  • Don’t make the mistake of drowning out the noise of your lawnmower with earphones and playing music at a high volume — this doesn’t help. You are substituting one potentially dangerous noise for another.
  • Set your headphones for no more than 60% volume and don’t listen for longer than 60 minutes before taking a break, ideally for the rest of the day.
  • Invest in headphones that create a seal around your ear or a pair that features active noise reduction (ANR) technology to block sound frequencies that are more harmful to your ears.

Hearing Loss Signs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Osteopathic Association, you may have a problem with noise-induced hearing loss if:

  • Speech seems muffled, as though your ears are plugged.
  • You have a ringing, roaring, or hissing in your ears.
  • You have a hard time hearing high-pitched noises like birds or a doorbell.
  • It’s difficult for you to understand a conversation in noisy places like a restaurant.
  • You have to turn up the volume on the TV or radio.

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed And Treated

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.