Whether you’re listening to a podcast or an energetic song, volume, measured in decibels, is the single factor that determines your risk, says Tina Penman, an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association-certified audiologist based in Portland, Oregon.
Standards say you can safely process sounds at 80 decibels for up to eight hours per day. Here’s how Penman suggests you test your earbuds’ volume: Put them in, hit play, and see if you can hear the noises around you, such as your steps on the treadmill, your coworkers’ conversation, or even your own voice. If you can’t, lower it until you can.
That said, drowning out background sounds can make music more meditative. When using noise-cancelling earbuds, hit play, then hold them at arm’s length. If you can hear the music or podcast, the volume is too loud.
The bottom line:
If you choose to crank your playlist past that point, never do so for more than 15 minutes per day, Penman says.