Healthy Volume Levels?

What is a healthy dB maximum to preserve good hearing later in life?

OSHA requires hearing protection at 85dB exposure over eight hours.

Given that most (all) orchestral conductors have hearing loss, as do many orchestral musicians I am even more conservative. I use hearing protection when riding and tracking motorcycles (superbikes), cutting the grass, etc. I do not listen to music over 80dB or so (except when performing).

1 Like

How do you then make use of more than vinyl‘s dynamic range? :wink:

1 Like

How do you accurately measure it at home? With a iPhone app?

Audio Tools app by Studio 6 Digital. A $20 essential.

I have a sound pressure meter (and no iThing of any kind).

I have a pretty good feel for volume from setting levels recording concerts, etc.

iOS app Decibel X matches pretty well with my 30 year old Radio Shack analog dB meter.

That’s good to know. I have been using that app for a while and wondered how accurate it was.

I listen at roughly 85dB and below and have gotten in the habit of having ear plugs on me since I never know when I might encounter live music or be exposed to unexpected high SPLs. So far its paid off.


Keep in mind however the RS meters, both analog and digital, are not very accurate. There are correction tables available if this is of interest.

Neither are ‘calibrated’ they just agree but close enough for my uses.

Are they accurate enough to prevent hearing loss?

If we assume a plus/minus 5dB broadband accuracy (not very good) setting the volume no higher than 80dB indicated would keep you within a safe level.

If you need to significantly raise your voice to have a conversation the SPL is at 85dB or better and you are pushing it.

This is the one I use on my iPhone for my listing room/level matching. Glad to hear it has a reputation of being fairly accurate.

FWIW, I like to listen to music at a level such that the PEAK volume is right at about 70dB. In my room, this seems to be loud enough with most recordings to allow sufficient resolution of low-level detail and a sufficiently “dynamic” performance. Of course, everyone’s preference will vary depending on their system, room and listening taste.

I’ve found the phone apps to be off by quite a lot. on my new phone it was off by 10db. compared to my calibrated mic. Once I got it calibrated it’s good for checking levels when you are out and about.

Listening near field peaks usually under 80-85db. More often than not, It’s average around 65-70db. I live in a condo so do my best to respect my neighbors.

I second Darren and others. If you want a life long enjoyment of music. Comfortable ear plugs with a carrying case, might be the best investment you ever make.

I wish I was more often in danger to encounter unexpected live music. I’m rather in danger to have no time to encounter planned live concerts :wink:

The human ear is flattest at 80-85 dB, it will vary some person to person. When you slowly turn up the volume, there will all of a sudden be a spot the “blooms”. No, your stereo did nothing, your ears just got to their most linear SPL range. Turn off the SPL meter and LISTEN, when you reach that, “ah!” moment turn on the SPL meter. It will be 80-85 dB.

Music is dynamic, not continuous, so an 80-85 dB SPL is and AVERAGE. You should be plenty safe and can listen as long as you want at that level, and enjoy your stereo’s increased linearity to your ears.

For continuous noise it is different. Think wind sprints verses continuous exertion. Your ears can’t adjust to a continuous level above 85 dB so yes, I wear ear plugs on the motorcycle and lawn mower all the time. The ambient noise is well above 85 dB continuous. And definitely with stuff that hit a HIGH peak loudness like a rotary cement or wood saw. Those can hit over 120 dB!

I ALWAYS listen to new products at 83 dB SPL average to offset your ears non linearity above or below that level. You hear BETTER in that range. When you audition new stuff, bring your reference SPL meter and set it to 83 dB, it is only fair to your ears to hear, “the same” each time.

Remember loudness buttons? Yes, they are designed to offset your ears non linear behavior. A taper function in the better ones turn them off as you reach 80 dB or somewhere in that range. It is a guess as the room and speaker isn’t known. But at real low levels it does perk up the “ends” of the spectrum.

Galen Gareis


Interesting. I did not know this. My personal experience seems to be right in line with it. I basically do exactly what you decribe regularly, “ah!” moment and all, and end up right in that 80 to 85 db range when I check. Very cool.

One of the most interesting, ear-opening posts I have read in the fora for some time…

Thank you.