Headphones: How Loud is Loud? | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Published on August 15, 2022

Headphones: How Loud is Loud?

A young girl relaxing on a couch wearing a pink set of headphonesHeadphones serve many purposes in our lives. Some people use them to listen to music or join a virtual meeting at work without disturbing their co-workers. Others use headphones to get better sound quality from their stereo equipment, or to block outside sounds with noise cancelling features. Regardless of the reason, a Statista survey indicated that 87% of the US population use headphones.

If the volume on those headphones is too high, permanent hearing damage can be done. Any repeated high-volume experiences or 1-shot booms can damage the delicate nerve cells of your inner ear. And once damaged, these cells don't grow back.

The American Academy of Pediatricians warns parents that the volume on headphones or ear buds can reach a damaging noise level up to 130 dB. PIH Health pediatrician, Bo Kong MD tells us, “I talk to my patients and their parents about the potential damage that high volume headphones can do to our hearing. The damage can be severe and permanent at any age.”

Various sound levels in our lives (in decibels)

Compare some of these common sounds and their rank of possible harm with what your ears are open to every day:


  • 20 dB - rustling leaves
  • 38 dB - whisper
  • 40 dB - refrigerator humming


  • 40 dB - quiet room
  • 50 dB - average rainfall
  • 60 dB - dishwasher, people talking


  • 70 dB - vacuum cleaner
  • 80 dB - busy street, alarm clock
  • 88 dB - motorcycle (25 feet)

Very loud:

  • 90 dB - lawnmower, food blender
  • 100 dB - chainsaw, snowmobile
  • 110 dB - symphony orchestra


  • 120 dB - oxygen torch
  • 130 dB - shotgun
  • 140 dB - jet plane take-off (near)
  • 150 dB - rock concert (peak)

So how loud is loud? Listening to anything at a high decibel level for extended periods of time will cause permanent hearing loss. Keep it at a moderate level to protect your hearing.

Learn more about pediatric care at PIH Health, or call 562.789.5435 to make an appointment with Dr. Kong.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.