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Turn Down the Volume: The Safe Decibel Levels for Headphones Use

Dive deep into the world of audio safety and discover the ideal decibel levels for headphones use. Learn how to strike the right balance between quality sound and hearing protection.

By: Aleksey Makohon Date: 08 / 07, 2023
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The Intricate Dance Between Sound and Silence: Why Safe dB Levels Matter

Ah, the allure of headphones. I remember the first pair I ever owned — a simple, wired set that introduced me to a world of music. I was barely out of my teens, working in a repair shop, fumbling with circuits and connectors. The allure wasn't just about the music; it was about drowning out the world and immersing myself in the sound. But here's a confession: I didn't always prioritize safety.

The Importance of Understanding Safe dB Levels for Headphones

 While working at that repair shop, I'd often test the headphones we fixed. It wasn't long before I realized the importance of a safe db level for earphones and headphones alike. A close friend and fellow musician, Dimitri, once told me, "Aleksey, volume isn't everything." He had seen a noticeable drop in his hearing ability over time, a direct result of consistently blaring music through headphones. That warning resonated, prompting me to explore the science behind it all.

Understanding the safe dB (decibel) levels for headphones isn't just about preserving your hearing; it's about optimizing your listening experience. Over the years, I've learned that music isn't about how loud you can hear it, but about the depth, nuances, and emotions it evokes. By understanding safe decibel levels, you ensure that you don't sacrifice the intricate details of your favorite tunes while also protecting your ears.

Moreover, when you think about dB levels, you must remember it’s not just about the immediate impact but the cumulative effect over time. Let's liken it to sunbathing. A single day under the sun might not do much, but constant exposure without sunscreen can lead to sunburn and, in worst cases, skin conditions. The ears, delicate and essential, require the same care.

Navigating the Soundscape: What is the Safe dB Level for Headphones?

Navigating the Soundscape: What is the Safe dB Level for Headphones?

But what exactly is this elusive "safe" decibel level? The answer might surprise you.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults not be exposed to more than 85 decibels for longer than 8 hours daily. To put that into perspective, 85 decibels is roughly equivalent to the sound of heavy city traffic. But headphones, sitting close to our eardrums, can amplify this. To be on the safer side, many experts suggest keeping the volume at around 60-70% of the maximum volume.

While at Treblab, I once had the privilege of being part of a team developing a new range of headphones. We carried out an informal survey asking users about their usual volume settings. Alarmingly, a significant number admitted to regularly listening at full volume. And it's easy to see why - immersing in your favorite tunes, blocking the external world, can be incredibly enticing. But remember Dimitri's warning? There's a price to pay.

Imagine you're at a live concert. The crowd roars, the guitar strums, and the drums beat loudly. It's thrilling, isn't it? Now, equate that excitement with the volume on your headphones. Seems harmless in short bursts, but prolonged exposure can be detrimental. As a musician, I've learned that the magic often lies in the quiet moments, the pauses, and the subtleties.

So, the next time you're tempted to crank up the volume, think about the intricate details you might be missing out on. After all, the beauty of music doesn't lie in its volume but in its depth. Embrace it, but remember to do so responsibly.

Understanding Safe dB Levels for Headphones: Decoding the Science of Sound

Diving deep into the world of sound is akin to diving into the ocean: fascinating, complex, and essential to navigate with care. Let’s embark on a journey to understand the intricate science of sound and how to ensure we get the best out of our headphones without compromising our precious sense of hearing.

Decibels (dB) Unveiled: The Language of Sound Intensity

If you've ever tweaked the volume on any audio equipment, you've interacted with decibels, even if indirectly. But what exactly are decibels? In my early days at the repair shop, one of the common questions I grappled with was how to measure headphone decibels. Over the years, though, its understanding became second nature.

Decibels (dB) measure the intensity of sound. It's a logarithmic unit that describes a ratio of two values, typically power or intensity. In simpler words, decibels help us understand how loud a sound is relative to a reference level. Why logarithmic? Well, our ears perceive changes in volume in a non-linear fashion. This means that when the sound doubles in intensity (power), it doesn't necessarily sound twice as loud to our ears. Hence, the need for a logarithmic scale.

Heeding the Experts: What Are the Safe dB Levels for Headphone Use?

I recall a candid chat with an audiologist during a music festival. Between discussions on favorite bands and tracks, we delved into the world of sound intensity. She stressed that prolonged exposure to anything above 85 dB could be harmful. Now, contextually, regular conversations typically hover around the 60 dB mark. As I mentioned earlier, while the World Health Organization (WHO) stipulates 85 dB as the upper limit for 8 hours of exposure, it’s wise to operate below that threshold when using headphones.

Everyday Sound in dB: A Reference Guide

To truly grasp the relevance of these figures, let's juxtapose headphone sound levels against everyday noises. This table provides a clear snapshot:

Sound Source

dB Level

Impact on Hearing

Whisper or rustling leaves

10 dB

Barely audible. Poses no risk to hearing.

A quiet library

20 dB

Still quite soft. No risk.

Gentle background music

30 dB

Ambient and calm. Safe for prolonged exposure.

Normal conversation

40-60 dB

Typical daily interactions. Safe and comfortable listening range.

Busy traffic

70 dB

Constant exposure can lead to potential harm over time. Use cautiously.

Vacuum cleaner

80 dB

Approaching the WHO threshold. Limit continuous exposure.

Heavy city traffic

85 dB

Upper safe limit according to WHO for 8-hour exposure. Exercise caution.

Motorcycles or lawn mowers

90 dB

Risk of hearing damage after 2 hours of continuous exposure.

Concerts or sporting events

100 dB

Potential harm within 15 minutes. Always use ear protection.

Subway train or car horn

110 dB

Immediate risk. Short term exposure can lead to harm.

Threshold of pain

120 dB

Extremely loud. Immediate potential for hearing damage. Avoid exposure.

Understanding this table is akin to having a roadmap. It’s imperative to remember that while brief exposures to higher dB levels might seem harmless, the cumulative impact can be significant. It’s a lesson I’ve learned, and one I wish for all to heed: enjoy the symphony of life, but make sure you're equipped to hear it for the long haul.

Risks of Listening to Headphones at High Volumes: The Hidden Cost of Sound

Risks of Listening to Headphones at High Volumes: The Hidden Cost of Sound

Music is often described as the language of the soul, a transcendent experience that connects us across time and space. Whether it's the hypnotic beats of a dance track or the soothing melodies of a classical symphony, music has the power to move us deeply. But there's a hidden cost when we don't respect its boundaries.

Throughout my career as a musician and later at TREBLAB, I've seen firsthand the consequences of not adhering to safe headphone decibels. I've met fellow artists who've faced hearing complications, and I've seen young enthusiasts unknowingly tread the path towards auditory damage. Here's a closer look at what can happen when you turn that dial a bit too high for too long.

Tinnitus: The Relentless Ringing

In the quiet moments after a concert, my friend Ivan would often complain about a persistent ringing in his ears, like a distant bell that never stopped. This condition, known as tinnitus, is an often-debilitating ringing or buzzing that seems to come from within the ears or head. It's a sign that the delicate hair cells inside the cochlea (part of the inner ear) are damaged.

Tinnitus can be temporary, like after attending a loud concert, but with repeated exposure to high volumes, it can become permanent. Imagine a life where silence is a luxury you can't afford. It's a stark reminder of the importance of moderation.

Imbalance: The World on a Tilt

Sound doesn't just influence our ability to hear; it can also impact our sense of balance. A few years ago, a colleague at TREBLAB, Natasha, experienced bouts of dizziness after prolonged headphone use. The inner ear, apart from housing the auditory system, also contains the vestibular system responsible for balance.

Extended exposure to loud sounds can potentially harm this delicate system, leading to a sensation of vertigo or imbalance. It's a disorienting experience, one that underscores the intricate interplay between our senses.

Sensitivity: The Burden of Hyperacusis

An artist friend, Marco, once told me a story that stayed with me. After years of blasting music through his headphones, he began to find everyday sounds painfully loud. The hum of a refrigerator, the chirping of birds, even soft conversations seemed unbearably intense. This heightened sensitivity to normal environmental sounds is known as hyperacusis.

It's like turning up the contrast on a picture until the colors become glaring and undefined. For Marco, the world became an overwhelming cacophony, a testament to the delicate balance our auditory system maintains.

Hearing Loss: The Silent Creep

Perhaps the most profound risk of all is hearing loss. It's a gradual process, often creeping up so subtly that by the time you notice, significant damage has been done. Dimitri, the friend I mentioned earlier, began to notice that he had to ask people to repeat themselves often. The high frequencies, like the chirping of birds or the beeping of an electronic device, became faint.

Hearing loss isn't just about missing out on sounds; it's about missing out on experiences, conversations, and connections. It's about the gradual distancing from the symphony of life.

In the realm of music and sound, the saying "moderation is key" holds true. By understanding and respecting the boundaries of our auditory system, we can ensure that the music never stops, that the dance between sound and silence continues gracefully throughout our lives.

Popular Ways to Check If Your Headphones Are Too Loud: A Guide to Safe Listening

Popular Ways to Check If Your Headphones Are Too Loud: A Guide to Safe Listening

The thrill of immersing oneself in sound, of being enveloped by melodies and harmonies, can often lead to a neglect of caution. But, just as we ensure our cars are roadworthy, it's essential to ensure our audio gear is 'ear-worthy.' Throughout my two-decade-long tryst with technology and music, I've come across multiple methods, both traditional and tech-savvy, to gauge if one's headphones are belting out volumes that could be damaging. Here are some tried-and-tested methods.

1. Carry out the Ringing Test: Silence Speaks Volumes

One summer afternoon, post a jamming session with my band, I noticed a slight ringing in my ears, a faint hum that lingered long after the music stopped. This is an immediate sign that the volume was too loud. If after taking off your headphones, you experience tinnitus or a muffled sensation, it's your body's way of signaling that the sound was too intense.

2. The Arm's Length Test: Holding Your Headphones Out In Front of You

This is a trick I learned during my early days at the repair shop. Play your music at your preferred volume and hold your headphones out in front of you at arm's length. Can you still hear the music? If yes, it's probably too loud. While it's a rudimentary test, it gives you a clear insight into good headphone decibels for listening.

3. Eyeballing the Volume Control

Modern devices often come with a visual indicator or warning when the volume surpasses safe levels. If you're cranking up the volume bar to more than 70-80% consistently, it might be worth reconsidering your listening habits. Remember, louder isn't always better, especially when longevity is concerned.

4. Ask a Friend for Assistance: The Buddy System

Sometimes, the simplest methods are the most effective. During one of our TREBLAB product testing sessions, I asked a colleague to wear headphones while I sat next to him. If I could clearly hear what he was listening to, it was a sign the volume was too high. Having a friend or family member assist can provide valuable external feedback.

5. Look Out for Signs of Hearing Loss: Tune Into Your Body

Regularly testing your hearing can help catch issues early on. Do you often ask people to repeat themselves? Do you struggle with high-pitched sounds or feel the need to increase TV volume more than others in the room? These could be early signs of hearing damage. Proactive monitoring can go a long way.

6. Measure Decibels Using Your Phone: Tech to the Rescue

Today, smartphones aren't just communication devices; they're powerful diagnostic tools. Several apps available on app stores can measure environmental sound levels using your phone's microphone. By placing your phone near your headphones, you can get a rough estimate of the headphone safety decibels you're subjecting your ears to. It's a convergence of my love for tech and music, a marriage of my two passions that ensures safety.

Sound is a journey, an experience, a story that unfolds with every note. But like any story, it's essential to ensure it's told at the right pace and volume. These methods, honed over years of personal and professional experiences, can serve as your compass, guiding you towards auditory bliss without compromising your well-being. Always remember: it's not just about hearing the music but ensuring that the music never stops.

The Intricacies of Measuring Decibels: Navigating the Sound Maze

Measuring sound seems straightforward. You capture the intensity, represent it in decibels (dB), and there you have it — a clear, quantifiable representation of sound intensity. Yet, anyone who's dipped their toes in the nuanced world of audio, as I have over the years, will vouch for the complexities involved. Measuring decibels is both an art and a science, a dance of precision and subjectivity.

1. The Nature of Sound: It's Not Just About Intensity

At the technical university, one of the first lessons we delved into was the multifaceted nature of sound. Sound isn't just about how 'loud' or 'soft' it is. Its characteristics include frequency, duration, and even the environment in which it's present. A 60 dB conversation in a quiet library feels different than a 60 dB conversation in a bustling cafe, even if the intensity is the same.

2. The Calibration Challenge

I remember the days at the local repair shop when I was 15, fiddling with analog devices trying to calibrate them. Calibration ensures that the measuring equipment is reading accurately. With modern digital devices, especially smartphones, calibration can be a challenge. Without proper calibration, the dB levels you measure might not reflect the actual intensity.

3. The Microphone Conundrum

While working with TREBLAB, I realized that the quality and type of microphone used in measuring devices can significantly influence the readings. Different microphones have varying sensitivity levels, frequency responses, and even directional characteristics. Two devices can measure the same sound source and yet give different dB readings based on their microphones. Hence, understanding how to check decibels of headphones becomes imperative for accurate assessment.

4. The Impact of Background Noise

Imagine trying to measure the sound of a gentle stream while standing next to a roaring waterfall. The background noise can interfere with accurate sound measurements. Especially in urban environments, isolating the sound you want to measure from ambient noises is a challenge.

5. The Human Factor: Perception vs. Reality

This is a personal favorite. I've been in numerous debates with fellow musicians about the 'loudness' of a track, only to realize that our perceptions vary. Human hearing is subjective. Factors like age, prior exposure to loud noises, and even individual physiological differences can influence how we perceive loudness, making it tricky to rely solely on objective measurements.

6. Time-Weighted Measurements

Sound isn't static. It ebbs and flows, peaks, and troughs. In my early band days, I'd notice how the crescendo of a track had a different intensity than its quieter parts. Decibel meters often use time-weighted measurements, averaging out the sound over a specific period. This means short, intense bursts of sound might not be accurately captured.

Navigating the world of decibels is like tuning a guitar. It requires patience, understanding, and a keen ear. While technology has given us tools to measure and understand sound better, the intricacies remind us of the delicate balance between precision and perception. The dance of decibels continues, and as with any dance, it's not just about the steps but the rhythm and the feel. So, the next time you measure sound, remember — it's as much about the numbers as it is about the narrative.

The Headphone Decibel Chart

When it comes to sound, understanding the delicate balance between intensity and duration is crucial. Based on my years in the industry, and the numerous charts, tables, and guidelines I've come across, the following table is a simplified representation for headphone users. It provides an approximate relation between noise exposure, the safe duration limit for that exposure, and the equivalent percentage volume in typical headphones:

Noise Exposure (dBa)

Duration Limit

Volume % in Headphones


5 minutes



15 minutes



30 minutes



2 hours



8 hours





Note: This table is based on general guidelines and might not apply to every individual or headphone model. The duration limit represents the maximum time one should be exposed to a particular noise level without hearing protection to prevent potential hearing damage. The volume percentage is an approximate representation based on standard headphones and might vary based on the headphone model, brand, and the device's maximum output.

It's always essential to remember that while tables and charts provide guidelines, each individual's hearing sensitivity varies. Always err on the side of caution and prioritize comfort over loudness. As I've learned throughout my journey in music and tech, it's not about how loud you hear but how well you listen.

Guiding Your Ears: How to Wear Headphones Without Sacrificing Hearing Health

Guiding Your Ears: How to Wear Headphones Without Sacrificing Hearing Health

Throughout my journey, from the symphonic compositions I've crafted to the intricate design decisions at TREBLAB, I've always been reminded of one thing: Our ears are precious. They are not just instruments of hearing but are gateways to the soul of sound. Thus, ensuring their health is paramount, especially in this age of pervasive headphone use.

1. The Golden Rule: 60/60

One of the most cherished advice passed down from one of my professors during my early music days was the 60/60 rule. It's elegantly simple: Keep your headphone volume at no more than 60% of the maximum for no longer than 60 minutes at a stretch. After this, give your ears a break. It's like a 'cooldown' session after a rigorous workout. This rule helps prevent the strain of continuous loud music on the delicate hair cells in our ears.

2. Setting Boundaries: Utilize Volume Limits

Modern devices are quite powerful, with some headphones capable of reaching alarming volume levels. Understanding how many db is too loud for headphones is essential. Dive into your device's settings to set a maximum volume limit. Think of it as a protective fence, ensuring you don't venture into the risky zones, even during those intense rock ballad climaxes.

3. Embrace Silence: Use Noise-Canceling Headphones

I remember the first time I tried on a pair of noise-canceling headphones. The world melted away, leaving me in an oasis of sound. By reducing ambient noise, these headphones allow users to enjoy music at lower volumes. Less ambient interference means you don't have to crank up the volume to drown out that pesky traffic or café chatter. It’s an investment in both quality sound and ear health.

4. Perfect Fit: The Importance of Good-Fitting Headphones

During a recent discussion with fellow audio aficionados, a friend lamented how her loose earbuds caused her to frequently increase the volume. This is a common issue. Ill-fitting headphones or earbuds can let in external noise, prompting us to raise the volume. Ensure you choose headphones that fit snugly. The right fit seals the music in and keeps disruptions out.

5. The Balancing Act: Utilize Equalizers

Back in my early technician days at the repair shop, I was enamored with equalizers. These tools allow you to adjust frequency bands to enhance or reduce certain sound elements. If your music sounds too bass-heavy or if the vocals are getting drowned, instead of increasing the volume, try tweaking the EQ settings. By balancing the audio profile, you can achieve clarity without pushing the volume.

Remember, the world of sound is vast, enchanting, and profound. And our ears are our bridge to this universe. As with all valuable things, they require care, respect, and sometimes, a little discipline. So, as you slide on those headphones, immerse yourself in the rhythm, but also listen to the silent whispers of your ear's well-being. For in preserving them, we preserve the magic of music and sound.

Protecting Young Ears: Safe Headphone Volume for Kids

Children's hearing systems are incredibly sensitive, and what's a moderate volume for us might be deafening for them. Reflecting on my journey with music and sound, one aspect has become evident: the younger we instill good habits, the better. As a Product Manager at TREBLAB and someone who has been around sound tech since my teenage years, I've been frequently asked by concerned parents about what db is too loud for headphones, especially for their children's delicate ears. Let's dive into this crucial topic.

Understanding Children’s Hearing Systems

Children’s auditory systems are still developing and are, by nature, more vulnerable than adults'. The eardrum and inner workings of a child's ear are more delicate, and the auditory canal is smaller, amplifying the sounds more than it would in an adult's ear.

I recall an incident during a family gathering a few years ago. A cousin's daughter, Sarah, was listening to her favorite song on her new headphones. Curious, I asked if I could have a listen. The volume was jarringly loud, though Sarah seemed unperturbed. That moment reaffirmed how vital awareness and education are in ensuring safe listening practices for children.

Safe Listening Practices for Kids

1. Duration and Volume Correlation

Much like the 60/60 rule for adults, kids should have even stricter limits. A good rule of thumb is the 50/50 rule: no more than 50% of the volume for 50 minutes, followed by a break.

2. Kid-Friendly Headphones

Market shelves today are graced with headphones specifically designed for kids. These often come with a built-in volume limit, usually capping at 85 dB, the recommended safe level for kids. Opting for such headphones eases the worry of accidental high-volume exposure.

3. Educate and Empower

Education is the cornerstone of safety. Just as we teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, we need to educate them about the risks of loud sounds. Share stories, use relatable examples, or even showcase diagrams of the ear to spark their interest. Once, I demonstrated the concept to my nephew using a guitar string to represent the fragile hair cells in our ears. The more tangible we make it, the more they understand.

4. Regular Monitoring

Randomly check the volume levels when your child is using headphones. This not only allows you to ensure it's at a safe level but also gives an opportunity to reinforce the importance of safe listening. With Sarah, after the ear-opening (pun intended) realization at the family gathering, her parents and I agreed on periodic volume checks, turning it into a fun activity rather than a policing measure.

5. Set the Example

Children mirror adults. If they see you practicing safe listening habits, they're more likely to emulate. So, let's walk the talk.

Children are the torchbearers of our legacy, and their hearing is a treasured gift. The songs they listen to, the stories they hear, and the world of sound they explore all shape their future. By ensuring that this exploration is safe, we guarantee them a lifetime of sonic wonders without compromise.


What is a safe volume for headphones?

The safe volume largely depends on the duration of your listening session. As a general rule, I always advise the 60/60 guideline: listening at 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. For children, it's even more stringent. I've elaborated on this in the "Safe Headphone Volume for Kids" section above.

Is 80% volume safe?

Technically, 80% volume can be safe depending on the headphones and the device's output power. However, I'd caution against prolonged listening at this level. It's essential to be aware of the duration. Remember the delicate balance between volume and listening time. Our "headphone decibel chart" above provides a clearer breakdown of safe listening durations for varying dB levels.

Is it ok to put headphones on max volume?

Simply put, no. Consistent exposure to max volume can be detrimental to your hearing health. The risk of damaging those precious hair cells in our ears significantly increases with louder volumes. I've witnessed and heard many tales of regret from acquaintances who didn't heed this advice.

Is 70 dB too loud for headphones?

70 dB is generally considered safe for up to 8 hours of continuous exposure per day. However, it's always wise to give your ears frequent breaks to reduce any potential strain.

How do I make my headphones louder?

Before seeking louder volume, ensure it's genuinely required. Sometimes, the quest for clarity can be mistaken for volume. If the sound feels muffled or lacks clarity, tweaking the equalizer settings might help. If you're genuinely facing low volume issues, you might consider investing in a headphone amplifier. But proceed with caution, and always prioritize ear health over loudness.

Can I limit the volume of my headphones?

Absolutely! Most modern devices offer settings that allow you to cap the maximum volume. It's a valuable feature, especially if you're concerned about inadvertently cranking up the volume too high. I've discussed this in more detail in the section "How to Wear Headphones Without Damaging Your Hearing."

How long can you listen to 75 dB in headphones?

At 75 dB, it's typically safe to listen continuously for up to 6 hours. However, just like I always emphasize, regular breaks are invaluable. I've referenced this in the "headphone decibel chart" for easy access.

What is a good dB for noise-cancelling headphones?

Noise-canceling headphones aim to reduce ambient noise, allowing you to listen at lower volumes. A good noise-canceling headphone can typically reduce ambient noise by 20 to 30 dB. However, it's not so much about how much noise it cancels but rather the resultant clarity and the consequent volume reduction you can achieve. My experiences with various headphone models have taught me that specifications alone don't define the experience. It's the synergy of design, technology, and user habits.


As we reach the crescendo of our enlightening discourse on headphone safety, let's take a brief moment to reflect on the resonant points we've journeyed through. With decades under my belt as both a musician and a technical enthusiast, I can't stress enough how crucial it is to harmonize our love for music with the well-being of our ears.

Let me remind you: our hearing, once lost, is gone forever. But the good news? Protecting it doesn't mean you need to compromise on the auditory experience. There's a symphony of sounds waiting for you out there, and with the right precautions—like adhering to the 60/60 rule, ensuring the right fit, and periodically measuring the dB levels—you can ensure that your auditory adventures remain vibrant for years to come.

My years at TREBLAB and my personal experiences have reaffirmed one thing: the real joy of music is not in how loud you hear it, but in how deeply you feel it. So, let's pledge to give our ears the respect they deserve. Remember, it's not just about listening to music; it's about listening to life. And trust me, life's melodies are too precious to be marred by negligence.

Stay safe, stay sound, and let the music play on—responsibly.

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