How loud is 85 db on headphones

Last Updated: Mar 5, 2024 by

When it comes to listening to music or watching videos on your headphones, finding the right volume level is crucial. You want to be able to hear the audio clearly without damaging your hearing. But what exactly does 85 dB mean in terms of headphone volume? In this article, we’ll explore the decibel scale, the effects of loud music on your ears, and how to control the volume on your headphones to ensure a safe listening experience.

Understanding the Decibel Scale

Before we dive into the specifics of 85 dB, let’s first understand the decibel scale. The decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement used to express the intensity of sound. It is a logarithmic scale, meaning that a small change in decibel level represents a large change in sound intensity.

The decibel scale starts at 0 dB, which is the threshold of human hearing. A whisper is typically around 30 dB, while a normal conversation is around 60 dB. A lawnmower or a busy street can reach up to 90 dB, and a jet engine can produce sound levels of 140 dB.

The Effects of Loud Music on Your Ears

Exposure to loud noises, including loud music, can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The louder the sound, the less time it takes for damage to occur. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB can cause hearing loss over time.

When you listen to music at a high volume, the hair cells in your inner ear can become damaged. These hair cells are responsible for translating sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Once these hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired or replaced, leading to permanent hearing loss.

In addition to hearing loss, exposure to loud music can also cause tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. This can be temporary or permanent and can be a sign of damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.

How to Control the Volume on Your Headphones

Now that we understand the potential risks of listening to loud music, let’s explore how to control the volume on your headphones to ensure a safe listening experience.

Use Volume Limiting Headphones

One of the easiest ways to control the volume on your headphones is to use volume limiting headphones. These headphones have a built-in feature that limits the maximum volume to a safe level, usually around 85 dB. This ensures that you cannot accidentally turn the volume up too high and damage your hearing.

Adjust the Volume on Your Device

Most devices, such as smartphones and laptops, have a volume control feature. You can adjust the volume to a safe level before putting on your headphones. This is especially important if you are using headphones without a volume limiting feature.

Follow the 60/60 Rule

A good rule of thumb for safe listening is the 60/60 rule. This means listening to music at no more than 60% of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time. This allows your ears to rest and recover from exposure to loud noises.

Use Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones can help reduce the need to turn up the volume to block out external noise. By blocking out background noise, you can listen to music at a lower volume and still hear it clearly.

Take Breaks

It’s important to take breaks from listening to music, especially at high volumes. This gives your ears a chance to rest and recover. If you are listening to music for an extended period of time, try taking a 10-15 minute break every hour.

Real-World Examples of Safe Headphone Volume Levels

To put 85 dB into perspective, here are some real-world examples of common sounds and their corresponding decibel levels:

  • A whisper: 30 dB
  • A normal conversation: 60 dB
  • A busy street: 90 dB
  • A lawnmower: 90 dB
  • A rock concert: 120 dB
  • A jet engine: 140 dB

As you can see, 85 dB falls in the middle of this range. It is important to note that the decibel scale is logarithmic, so a sound at 85 dB is not just slightly louder than a sound at 60 dB. In fact, a sound at 85 dB is 100 times louder than a sound at 60 dB.

How to Measure the Volume on Your Headphones

If you are unsure of the volume level on your headphones, there are a few ways to measure it.

Use a Decibel Meter App

There are many free decibel meter apps available for smartphones. These apps use the microphone on your phone to measure the sound level in decibels. Simply open the app and place your phone near your headphones to get a reading of the volume level.

Use an Online Decibel Meter

If you don’t have a smartphone or prefer not to download an app, you can use an online decibel meter. These websites use your computer’s microphone to measure the sound level. Simply go to the website and follow the instructions to get a reading of the volume level.

Use a Physical Decibel Meter

For a more accurate reading, you can use a physical decibel meter. These devices are specifically designed to measure sound levels and can be purchased online or at a local electronics store.


In conclusion, 85 dB is a safe volume level for listening to music on your headphones. However, it is important to remember that the decibel scale is logarithmic, so a small increase in volume can have a significant impact on your hearing. It is always best to err on the side of caution and use volume limiting headphones or follow the 60/60 rule to ensure a safe listening experience. By understanding the decibel scale and taking steps to control the volume on your headphones, you can enjoy your music without risking damage to your hearing.

Gulrukh Ch

About the Author: Gulrukh Ch

Gulrukh Chaudhary, an accomplished digital marketer and technology writer with a passion for exploring the frontiers of innovation. Armed with a Master's degree in Information Technology, Gulrukh seamlessly blends her technical prowess with her creative flair, resulting in captivating insights into the world of emerging technologies. Discover more about her on her LinkedIn profile.