Are your listening levels healthy? Doing damage?

Do you know decibel levels when listening to your system, and how loud do you go?

Since upgrading my system, again, I find my listening levels have tended to increase. Not because I'm slowly going deaf but because it's more enjoyable.

I measured the decibel level with a few iPad Apps, and there was lots of disparity. Plus or minus 25 dB. 

Certainly if it's too loud I sense things are not healthy but I'd really like to know how loud things are since Google tells me prolonged listening above 70 dB could be damaging my hearing.

The apps on an iPad are clearly unreliable and now I have to contemplate spending several hundred dollars for a sound meter as well as a calibration device so I can know what my limits are and so I can be in compliance with Google.

Anyone know a good sound meter, and do most serious listeners get one of these things?



I have the classic Radio Shack analog meter that I've used for years, but switched to a newer meter a few years ago and am happy with it.   I try to keep my listening sessions around 80dBC on average.    When I was younger I likely averaged mid 80s.

I already have hearing damage from the many concerts I've attended over the decades, so I do try to prevent anymore from my home listening...

I have the meters on my power amp set to 'hold' in watts and it shows 55 watts.  However, I have an SPL app on my iPhone and it shows  85 - 90 db.  I am not sure which one is accurate but it is loud enough for me.  My speakers are only rated for 80 watts so I try to to push it.  

The realized SPL for any wattage depends not just on speaker efficiency, but also on various acoustic factors, the most important being the distance between your ears (or the measurement) and the speaker.

After recent upgrades, I find I don't need to listen as loud, it sounds good at any volume that's reasonable.



The “db Meter Pro” app on my iPhone shows very close to the same readings as my old reliable Radio Shack one. 

Similar to the above posters, also using a Radio Shack meter. "C" weighted, fast response. Measured at the listening seat. Peak levels are almost always between 80 and 85 dB, regardless of genre. Quieter passages are obviously less.

Most music isn't "prolonged levels". There's a big difference between peak levels of music and prolonged levels of constant sound and their effects on ear health.

Well recorded rock music from good bands just starts to come alive at 85db….. Fir that matter, same goes for full symphonic music.

What’s the point of big expensive speakers & amps  when at 85 db, you need a watt or two for the average speaker sensitivity ? 

My objective is to simulate music as much as possible & that means volume & dynamics!!!  To each his own!

If you need to turn it up loud to sound good, then your system needs work.


I have some damage from when I was young and couldn't afford a good system.

My experience with a few Android SPL meter apps was that they were garbage. Not accurate at all. Buy a "real" calibrated SPL meter from a reputable brand and call it a day. It should last you a lifetime as long as you don’t leave batteries in it more than a year at a time (leaking batteries is sadly still a thing here in 2023).

I listen in the 80 to 85dB range most of the time, occasionally "rocking out" once in a blue moon to the low 90s. At night, I listen to music in the mid-70s range to wind down and go to sleep. I learned my lesson. And too many loud concerts have taken their toil over the years, along with ironically my various car systems over the years. I really did more damage with my car systems than I ever did with my "real" stereos. I have 8000Hz tinnitus now that varies from being ignorable to being pretty loud depending on my stress level. I wouldn’t wish tinnitus on the Devil. It is definitely no fun and distracts from the pleasure of listening to music.

If you need to turn it up loud to sound good, then your system needs work.


I have some damage from when I was young and couldn’t afford a good system.


I have some damage from guitar amps and at 67, have no desire to incur any further damage. 75 db peaks is my top limit. Most of the time it's more like 70db.

I typically listen at 65 to 70db with peaks to 75db. 

The caution is that over 85db for eight or more hours can cause hearing damage, 88db for 4 hours, 91 db for 2 hours. 70 db or under is OK for as long as you want. 

So, unless you are into headbanging volumes you are probably good. 


Maximum 80 db. Plenty loud enough and does not worsen my tinnitus.

Same boat...

Maybe 85 dB peaks, average 70dB.

I recently compared dB Pro and NIOSH SLM (free) and they are virtually the same.

I designed my system to protect my already damaged ears.

As I write this I’m listening to TP Echo 65dB avg / 85dB peaks and it fills my large room with satisfying sound - and at 10ft from the speakers is more then enough to feel the music.

@moonwatcher tinnitus is the brain’s perception of / compensation for hearing loss - it can’t really change with stress but the perception can be affected by blood pressure and other things (alcohol, coffee etc.) - it also cannot be measured, your actual hearing loss can be quantified, of course.

Moderate levels these days. Yrs ago I had three big Carvers running bullet proof Axiom speakers. I could dim the lights when I cranked em up. Not too smart. Paying for it now.

If you use headphones, that is where you real concern should be especially if you use IEM during airplane travel for extended periods.

Most of my current listening is at 60-75 dbs with peaks to maybe 85 dbs.  How ever when I went to concerts as a yout, I came home with my ears ringing!

I always use a SPL meter as long as your peaks are not sustained over 90 db 

then you are ok which I keep my rock at most 85 db steady and 95 db peaks 

but not often 

I find that I can enjoy low levels just as much as high levels. Actually, low level requires more attention, and I get further into the music.

When I'm slightly or more than slightly drunk I pay my system louder. If I plug in a small guitar amp I leave in my listening space to play along with something on a pretty Les Paul I leave out (because it's so pretty...all my acoustics guitars stay in their cases, as do my other electrics) things can get louder...this has been going on for decades as has live gigging, so don't ask about my hearing as I'm defensive and get testy...


Yes, tinnitus is "associated" with hearing loss, but there are other schools of thought as well. My hearing is typical for most 65 year olds, rolling off at 12KHz. Yet, like many, my tinnitus seems to manifest itself as a continuous sine wave at 8KHz. Why is unknown. 

I can only tell you that from day to day my intake of coffee and alcohol is usually the same every week, yet my perception of the volume level fluctuates considerably. My otolaryngologist, Angelia Natili, MD, FAAOA, was the one who told me that stress can indeed affect the perceived levels you hear. 

The competing school of thought regarding tinnitus suggest that it has absolutely nothing to do with hearing loss and instead is a brain/nervous system interaction wherein the brain "hears" the nervous system. Still, why it manifests itself at 8KHz is a mystery. 

Currently there are no legitimate therapeutic treatments. The main thing being offered are "masker hearing aids" that provide a "sssshhh" sound to cover up the tinnitus. I've decided to not go that route. There are also lots of "snake oil" treatments out there (just do a search on YouTube and you'll find a bunch of them). 

More research is needed for this. There are millions of sufferers around the world who could benefit. Just in the U.S. alone, 15% (50 million people) have it. 

There are a very few actual treatments going through the clinical trials. I've already asked my otolaryngologist to let me know if and when they participate in such trials. I want to be in on them. 

@ddafoe +1 on the Reed Instruments. Is $180 "expensive"? Not if you care about your hearing. That’s cheaper than many spend on a decent set of RCA interconnects.

The problem with many of these phone apps is that you have no way of knowing if they were matched to the microphones and preamps in these devices. That one guy above, Jon, says the one for his specific iPhone is "close" to a calibrated SPL was fortunate. Good for him. Perhaps Apple commands such a market share that the developers could spend the time getting it right. 

I doubt all these developers take the time to get real data on the myriad of phones out there, especially Android except for certain Samsung phones. And then, where do they get this information?

How do we even know the frequency range and response of these microphones and preamps in our cell phones. I mean they are mainly designed (and perhaps even intentionally limited) to pick up and amplify human speech (85Hz to 255Hz), not music. In telephony, the usable voice frequency band ranges from approximately 300 to 3400 Hz. Note that 300Hz is indeed above the fundamentals, but they say, "However, enough of the harmonic series will be present for the missing fundamental to create the impression of hearing the fundamental tone."

So, your phone likely has a sampling frequency of 8000Hz in order to cover decently up to 4000Hz, and whether the microphone goes any higher (or lower than 300Hz) with a decent linear response is open to question and experimental tests.

At least if you buy a legit SPL meter (a good one) they let you know the frequency range it covers (31.5 Hz to 8 kHz in the case of the Reed Instruments) and its accuracy (±1.4 dB - which isn’t that good but "decent").


My friends laughed at me when, even in the 60's and 70's I'd put earplugs in whenever my band played, or when I'd go to a concert. Who's laughing now?

I'm the only one that doesn't wear hearing aids. Hypersensivity has paid off.


My friends laughed at me when, even in the 60's and 70's I'd put earplugs in ... when I'd go to a concert. Who's laughing now?

Same here!

I actually walked out of a Who concert. It was so loud it was physically uncomfortable.

@moonwatcher Other schools of thought...for sure, and overexposure isn’t the only cause. I have a friend with significant hearing loss and tinnitus from anti-depressants. How ironic is that? Made him WAY more depressed.’s not stress alone that can exacerbate tinnitus but the associated physiological effects of stress, like BP, heart rate, tension etc. which is what I meant - so 100% I agree stress can make it worse.

Competing school of thought - yep, but, if you have documented hearing loss is pretty safe to assume the tinnitus is related. My hearing loss is mostly between 500-6000 Hz. My tinnitus is quite high pitched. However there is no way to actually measure the frequency of the tinnitus tone that I am aware of.

You mentioned your hearing rolls of at 12 Khz - the audiometers I’ve been tested only test from 250-8000Hz?

No treatments, therapeutics are 100% snake oil, nothing on the horizon. Hearing aids are not a path I’m willing to try either atm, and my friend I mentioned did go down that path and basically wasted $8K.

There is potential for an implanted device, but unfortunately it is being applied to a more lucrative disorder atm. I know the inventor, I’ll be discussing this further with him shortly.

I am curious though; what would a good quality hearing aid do to the sound of my system? My guess is I would no longer be actually listening to my speakers...thoughts?

Lastly, if you hear of a clinical trial please let me know.

@macg19 The only legitimate treatment I've seen undergoing clinical trials is the Lenire tinnitus treatment from Neuromod that got FDA NeNovo Approval, by using bimodal neuromodulation to significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Where this sits and where it is going is up to anyone's guess. I wish there were ways to find out more about it. This is the one I asked my otolaryngologist about, but she said they were not involved in any clinical trials at this time.  I wish. 

She wrote back saying, "No clinics are listed as offering it in USA yet. You could reach out to one of the academic centers like Wake Forest, UNC, or Duke that have ENT residencies, that would probably be the earliest availability."

I've never used hearing aids so I don't know how they would be. Do they "augment" what you are hearing in realtime? Or would you hear say your speakers then hear a separate sound coming from the hearing aid? IDK. That (and the needless expense you mentioned) is one reason I've never been interested in them. 

Oh, they normally don't go much above 8KHz.  Not sure why. But I asked the guy running the tests if he could do a frequency sweep and he obliged. 

I was able to match my 8000Hz tinnitus by using an online tool.  She said that one was the most common for whatever reason. 

Is your hearing loss between 500 and 6000Hz "fixable" if you used an EQ? Or is it simply "not there"? 

Hang in there. Maybe one day some of these issues will have fixes or treatments. 

@moonwatcher Thanks for the reply.

Is your hearing loss between 500 and 6000Hz "fixable" if you used an EQ? Or is it simply "not there"? 

Probably - but I compensated with speakers that have very good mid-range  I just need the volume loud enough so that the majority of the music drowns out the tinnitus - which makes listening to classical music nearly impossible but that genre isn't my fave anyway.

You hang in there too. 

A couple of points.

IPhone apps can be quite accurate, as they all are calibrated to the same standard. Android phones, unfortunately,  are not. On my Samsung I had to use a 15dB! Sensitivity adjustment to match a calibrated sound level meter.

+1 for having a sound level meter.

On OSHA standards, be aware they are based on minimizing hearing loss related to speech intelligibility,  and so do not consider loss above 8kHz. So high frequency loss is still possible while staying within their exposure limits.


I typically listen with 75-80 dB peaks measured with fast dBC settings.



I certainly listened too loud when I was younger and my tinnitus today is the result. Actually, I started having tinnitus symptoms when I was about 40, (~25 years ago). I really regret not paying more attention to my hearing in my 20s and 30s. 

I listen to my system a LOT - Roon says 200 hours over the past 4 weeks. Since Covid, I have been working from home most of the time and I have my "office" set up at the back of my listening room. Most of the time, I'm listening at 55-65 dB-C. My system sounds very nice at this level, with excellent dynamics and plenty of detail. Occasionally, I'll turn it up a bit, but it's pretty rare to exceed 80db peaks. 

Some medications can cause tinnitus. I was taking Prilosec and started experiencing tinnitus. I read there might be a correlation so discontinued the medication and after a while the tinnitus went away. 

 Pharma think about profit at all cost...

i just read about prilosec...


Very interesting to read all the comments. I think spending money on a quality sound pressure meter with a calibration device makes sense and very worthwhile.  Reed Instruments seems good.

Surprised no one has discussed keeping their ears clean. I had some blockage a couple years ago and I applied sweet oil daily for a while and that softened things up and got rid of the problem.  When you chew food the movement tends to be a self cleansing mechanism for the ear canal area. Also flowing warm water from a shower to the ear area is helpful.

Also I take metoprolol, a heart medication, and side effects are tinitus.

Cleaning ears comes up on other posts. Many of use clean them periodically. There are also warm water ear cleaning devices that attach to the faucet. My doctor has one and you can buy them on line.


I have a couple SPL devices… but just use my Iphone. Typically only to occationally mention the volume on a forum post.

@macg19 "However there is no way to actually measure the frequency of the tinnitus tone that I am aware of."

Actually, I found it pretty simple. i sat down with a set of headphones,  with the amp hooked to a signal generator. I simply adjusted the tone frequency in the headphones until it matched what was in my head. In my case, that was about 9 KHz. 

I've had tinnitus for 30+ years now. The ENT I saw told me it was likely ear damage dating back to the 1970s when I was a concert sound engineer.  The follicles in the ear are each thought to be tied to an individual brain cell, and when the hairs are damaged, the brain cells end up disconnected and bored, and make their own noise, kind of like a bored kid drumming their fingers.  No idea if that's actually the case, but it does make sense to me. I've got my noise constantly when I'm awake but have learned to live with it, just as I've adapted to all the other aches, pains and disfunction I've acquired as I've moved into my 70s.

@mlsstl clever idea. 

@moonwatcher I’m setting up an appointment with a doc that offers the Lenire device.

Not covered by insurance yet - $5,500 and the treatment period is 12 weeks. Not convinced yet but I’m going to hear the pitch (pun intended)

@macg19 That's expensive, but less than a hearing aid. In the three clinical trials I read about with the Lenire device, about 87% said it improved their symptoms.  Now, how "much" it improved their perception of it I don't know. Hopefully your doctor can clue you into his own experience with it and his patients. Good luck! 

I live in NC and so far, no place around here offers it. But I'll keep hoping. 

I am lucky, i never went to any rock/pop concert young ... Younger i listened only classical not even jazz as i do now too..

My hearing is good for my age i tuned by ears my 100 helmholtz resonators in my acoustic room ...😊

Any big noise exceeding 85 db made me mad and i run....

The last live concert i goes was in a small room and amplified, it made me sick...

i will listen ONLY to my audio system till my death ...

When there is public pop music concert in street festivities i change my walking course... I dont understand crowds... 😁


Industrial hygienist here, very versed in the OSHA standards.

1.  For a phone app, try the NIOSH app.  Clearly not as good as a top shelf sound meter, but one we use if we don't have our "good" equipment with us just to screen sound levels.  Phone quality obviously plays into this, and/or whether or not your phone's speaker is dirty and caked with dust and grime.

2.  85 dB is the level at which an employer is required to have a Hearing Conservation Program, monitor employees with baseline audiograms and provide hearing protection.  Hearing protection in a workplace setting MUST be worn at levels exceeding 85 dB as an 8-hour time-weighted average (which basically means, if your work environment is really loud, right around 85 dB (+/- 2 dB or so) for your entire work shift, you need to be wearing appropriate hearing protection.

In practical terms for home audio, you're probably not listening for 8+ hours at levels above 85 dB.  If you are, you're destroying your hearing.  Intermittent excursion above 85 dB won't destroy your hearing, but could still do damage.  So, glad to report that those who identified 85 dB as the magic number.........all get a blue star for the forehead (for those who remember that kind of grade school stuff).


Being an industrial hygienist sounds very exciting. Thank you for your wonderful reply.

I downloaded many apps on my iPad and Niosh is one of them. I get variations of 20 to 30 dB between the apps.  Normal talking volume into my iPad scores about 90 Db on the Niosh ap. And normal TV volume is about 85.  seems high.

I think there is great need for a calibration device when I buy a sound meter. Can you recommend one for about $200 Plus calibration which I view as essential.

Thank you very much. A very very important topic. Thanks

@emergingsoul  -- you need to pay attention to what weighting scale your meter uses. A Z scale is flat and not common on the consumer meters or phone apps. Meanwhile,  while the A scale most resembles the human ear's hearing at moderate levels. The sensitivity of the A scale drops off quite a bit in the low bass and high frequency range. The ear's "flatness" perception changes with volume, and the C scale is closer to the ear's frequency response sensitivity at higher volumes -- 100 dB or so.

As such, if your meter can switch between C and A, the C setting will show as louder if the music contains more bass.  (THis is also why some amps used to have a "loudness" button which boosted the bass at lower volumes.)

OHSA standards are based on the A scale. Depending on the frequency range of what you are monitoring, there can be a considerable difference between what the A and C scales show.

This is an important topic for all of us.  I have Decibel x on my iphone and try to keep below 85db, minus occasional peaks in low 90s.  I have used the app for a lot of day to day sounds and have been stunned.  Riding in traffic is close to 85 dbs.  The background noise on an airplane is frequently above 80 dbs. Think of the time exposure of that! Our world is surprisingly noisy. We have to remember that all sounds through our days are additive to what we expose ourselves to while listening. I've been practicing orthopaedic surgery for 34 years and just recently has our academy put out warnings of potential hearing loss as a result of operating room noise.  There are earplugs made by etyplugs that lower the volume without the sensation of muffling. These are great for live noisy venues as it serves as a means to preserve the sound quality, but at a lower level.  I have been using these in the operating room for several years and on flights, when I remember to bring them home.


I’m planning to launch a lawn scaping business that advertises getting your lawn care taken care of without all the noise. My current landscaper is forbidden from using at least blower, and that took a little effort, but I think he’s happier

My fleet of trucks will consist of battery powered Grass cutting machines (plenty of batteries to make it through the day). My crew will no longer use leaf blower’s except in the fall and during first visit in spring. I will teach my lawn crew to use a broom, what a novel concept.

You won’t even notice us.

In our current period of existence, lawn scaping services are proliferating with crappy and noisy commercial Grass cutting machines with very dull blades that are awful for your lawn. And don’t forget multiple revving leaf blower’s throughout the ordeal of getting your lawn done. And of course your neighbors do the same thing. It’s getting very very noisy out there. Most of the time I can’t hold a conversation in my yard because of nonstop leaf blower’s revving. How did we ever come to this.

I plan to make a lot of money with my new lawn care service (maybe as much as an orthopedic surgeon), and it’ll be a bonus for the environment.

I’m 69 and have been using headphone noise suppression for over 30 years, when I mow, use power saws, vacuum or do anything that involves loud sounds.  I have three different SPL apps I use. All three are within a couple of db of each other. I’ve found that iPhones are a good piece to measure with. Generally, I don’t go above 85 and tend to stay between 70-75 db. I attended aDoobie Bros Concert a few months back in Nashville. I forgot my foam buds, so put tissue in my ears. I measured a SPL of 106 db!  They played great, but way too loud. 

two years ago, I could hear 12K Htz. Now it drops of around 10.5Khrtz. My listening sessions are getting farther apart, but still love to have a night of good listening. 

I attended aDoobie Bros Concert a few months back in Nashville. I forgot my foam buds, so put tissue in my ears. I measured a SPL of 106 db!  They played great, but way too loud. 

Unfortunately, this is all too common and sad from an avid concertgoer's perspective.   I love the musical attack of a live event, but some of the shows I've been to are just stupidly loud.   I took one of my kids to an outdoor concert event in downtown Boston where the artist included Julien Baker (younger artists and fans...) and her show had peaks in the 130dBC range!   You could feel the sound waves 'popping' my clothes.   Even with earplugs I had ear discomfort for two weeks and then my tinnitus jumped up in volume (likely permanently).

Wearing earplugs definitely help, but they don't cover shows like that.  When one looks at how the NRR rating works, it is not as simple as subtracting your earplugs NRR rating off of your concert levels.  e.g.

(NRR-7)/2 for many of the common earplugs I use (e.g. Etymotic Research, Loop Earplugs) give you only (20-7)/2 = ~ 7dB reduction.   When the shows are in the 100+ range that is still very problematic...

Having said all of that, my only regrets are not starting to wear earplugs in my teens at shows (vs my 30s).   I still would not give up the many awesome experiences I've enjoyed at the live concerts I've attended over the decades.   At least my hearing will have been very well used and thoroughly enjoyed when I get put to rest :)

@emergingsoul Best of luck on your new business adventure.  I'm sure many homeowners will be interested in a low noise lawn service.