How to Avoid iPhone & iPod Hearing Loss

Safe volume limit & other listening tips

Woman listening to iPod with headphones

Michael H/Digital Vision / Getty Images

It’s ironic that the very thing that drives most people to get an iPhone or an iPod — a love of music — could prevent their ability to enjoy it. Listening to music on an iPhone too much, or too loud, can lead to hearing loss, depriving you of the ability to enjoy music. iPhone hearing loss is a serious risk for many users (and users of non-Apple devices, too). A growing body of research shows that how people listen to iPhones can cause lasting hearing damage.

These tips for avoiding hearing loss are relevant for all iPhone models, regardless of the iOS version.

Hearing Loss Is a Real Problem

The iPhone and iPod produce a maximum of 100 to 115 decibels (software limits European iPods to 100 dB; U.S. models have been measured higher), which is the equivalent of attending a rock concert.

Some studies have found that people in their 20s have hearing loss more typical of people aged 50 years and older because of exposure to music at this volume. 

This isn’t an iPhone-specific problem. Walkman users had the same issue in the 80s. Hearing loss is something to take seriously.

Tips to Avoid iPhone Hearing Loss

Here are some tips for how to use an iPhone and protect your hearing.

Don't Listen So Loudly

Most researchers agree that it's safe to regularly listen to an iPod or iPhone at about 70 percent of its maximum volume. It's probably better to listen at a lower volume, though.

Listening at anything louder than that over an extended period of time is risky. If you want to listen to your iPhone or iPod at full volume, don't do it for longer than five minutes.

Use Volume Control

In response to consumer concerns, Apple offers a volume limit setting for some iOS devices. On the iPhone, for example, go to Settings > Music > Volume Limit to adjust the maximum volume.

Music, Volume Limit buttons in iOS Settings

It's also possible to limit the volume of individual songs, but that's less efficient, especially if there are thousands of songs in your library.

Limit Your Listening

Volume isn't the only thing that can contribute to hearing loss; the length of time you listen is important, too.

If you listen to music at a higher volume, listen for a shorter time. In addition, give your ears a chance to rest between listening sessions to minimize damage.

Use the 60/60 Rule

Since the combination of volume and length of listening can cause hearing loss, researchers recommend applying the 60/60 rule.

This rule suggests listening to an iPhone for 60 minutes at 60 percent of its maximum volume, then taking a break. Ears that get a rest have time to recover and are less likely to be permanently damaged.

Don’t Use Earbuds

Despite their inclusion with every iPod and iPhone, researchers caution against using earbuds, regardless of who manufactured them.

Earbuds are more likely to cause hearing damage than headphones that sit over the ear. They can also be up to 9 dB louder than over-the-ear headphones. This isn't a big deal when going from 40 to 50 dB, but more serious when going from 70 to 80.

Use Noise-Dampening or Canceling Headphones

The noise around you may cause you to change how you listen to an iPod or iPhone. If there’s a lot of noise nearby, it’s likely that you'll turn up the iPhone volume, thus increasing the chances of hearing loss.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Bose

To reduce or eliminate ambient noise, use noise-canceling headphones. They’re more expensive, but your ears will be protected.