Do earbuds harm your ears? It’s an age-old debate, but headphones and earbuds can cause damage to your ears. But how loud is too loud, and how can you protect your ears without losing the experience of your music?

Hearing Damage Starts At 85 dB

The majority of doctors agree that the threshold for hearing damage is at 85 dB. Hearing loss or tinnitus can occur when someone gets exposed to sounds at or above 85 dB for long periods. 85 dB may sound loud, but chances are you hear noises at that level every day. For example, your lawnmower or a crowded restaurant may produce about 90 dB of sound.

Don’t worry; doctors agree that you need to be exposed to that level for eight hours before you start to suffer. However, the louder your surroundings, the less time you can be exposed to those sounds. Your ears cannot handle sustained high dB levels for long periods of times; this is where music lovers should take notice.

What Happens After Long Term Exposure?

Most headphone and audio source, whether a computer or cell phone, can exceed the 85dB threshold. Some headphones can push 110dB– 120dB. At that level, only a minute of exposure could lead to ear damage. Measuring the dB level that your earbuds is difficult.

There are dB meters that measure the surrounding environment, but the sound produced by earphones or headphones is supposed to go straight into your ear. Due to this, you would have to press the headphones or earbuds directly to the meter. This reading will not be 100% accurate.


Since there is no right way to measure the sound, you will need to be vigilant when listening to music through headphones or earbuds. If you can take your headphones or earbuds off, hold them in front of your face, and still be able to make out the audio, your music is too loud. Most cell phones will alert you when you increase the volume to an unsafe level. Most apps will also have a ‘Volume Normalization’ setting that will allow you to adjust the audio to comfortable levels.

Quality Accessories

Investing in a good pair of headphones or earbuds can also make the listening experience better at lower volume levels. Several excellent options in the market cost less than $200. While it may seem like a lot of money, it is well worth the investment. Another consideration, over-ear headphones, will always have a better sound quality than earbuds.

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