MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new update to the iPhone has a new feature in the health app. It can track how loud sounds are coming through the headphones.

So, that left us wondering: How loud is too loud? Good Question.

“It’s not just how long, it’s how loud, that’s the tricky part,” says Dr. Sarah Shefelbine, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Allina Health. “It changes as the decibel level goes up.”

According to the Hearing Health Foundation, normal conversation is about 60dB, a hairdryer is 70dB and a dishwasher is 75dB. None of those have maximum time limits when it comes to gradual hearing loss.

But, the Centers for Disease Control does set recommended exposure limits for sounds 85dB and above.

At 85dB, which is the sounds of heavy city traffic, the maximum exposure is 8 hours. For 88 dB, the equivalent of a food blender, it’s 4 hours. For 91dB, or shouting, it’s 2 hours and for 94dB, or the sound of a subway, it’s one hour.

Dr. Shefelbine says most people listening to music or podcasts throughout the day on the headphones aren’t at risk for harmful damage to their hearing.

“We do have to keep in mind that everyone has individual susceptibilities to noise,” she says.

She says children are more sensitive to noise, especially when it comes to headphones to fit into their ears.

“It’s different for kids in some ways,” she says. “With earbuds for kids, the decibel level is actually louder because of the acoustic resonance of their ear canal.”

She recommends over the ear headphones for kids and adults because the noise cancellation features and acoustic quality make it so the overall volume doesn’t have to be as high. But, she says it’s ok to wear headphones in the ears as long as people pay attention to the volume.

“Another good rule of thumb is that if you have to shout to someone who is three feet away from you, to have them hear you, it’s too loud,” she says.

Heather Brown

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