Tinnitus Talk Audiophiles: What Decibel Levels Are Considered Safe?

Discussion in 'Support' started by Pedro65, Jun 27, 2019.

    1. Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      Hello:

      I've been with tinnitus and some form of mild hyperacusis for just over a month. I'm doing fine, not freaking out and following some good (in my opinion)advice given here; such as using sound machines at the office and at bedtime. By mild hyperacusis, I mean no pain, just more sensitive to normal sounds such as when doing the dishes, some types of voices, etc. However, my tinnitus "reacts" to external sounds, but return quickly to its normal volume.

      I used to listen to my hifi for hours before my bout with tinnitus, at levels which I thought to be safe and reasonable. Mostly classical/orchestral at around 70 or 80 dB. Peaks could reach the low 90s, but those were not common.

      I want to go back to the hifi, since I miss it and also think that it may help with hyperacusis. So, my question is:

      What levels should be considered safe in terms of decibels?
       
      • Good Question Good Question x 1
    2. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      HI @Pedro65

      I am an Audiophile and if you are one too that would be interesting, as I like to know what HI-FI equipment a person has. I use a Tube/Valve 300B Parallel Single Ended Amplifier on one system and 300B Push-Pull Amplifier on 2nd system. Linn Sondek LP12 Turntable, Marantz SA11S3 cd player and ProAc D28 speakers. I also use high-end: Interconnects, Mains and Speaker cables including Mains conditioners to supply clean electricity throughout the system. I hope this has whet your appetite enough for us to discuss high-end audio.

      Please don't pay too much attention to decibel levels. Although it has some importance it really depends on how comfortable your ears feel when listening to your music. When I first got tinnitus 23 years ago I couldn't listen to my HI-FI for nearly a year as my Hyperacusis was so severe. I measured 30 decibels which is very low from my listening position and it spiked the tinnitus.

      Therefore, monitor how your ears feel. Remember also that deep bass can sometimes cause problems if you're recovering from a noise trauma, but you shouldn't have any trouble whilst listening to classical. However, still be careful of mid-range and high frequencies.

      Did headphones cause your noise trauma? If they did I advise you not to use headphones even at low volume for now. I would rather you never use them again but it's your choice. Please click on the links below and read my posts that you might find helpful.

      All the best
      Michael

      https://www.tinnitustalk.com/threads/new-to-tinnitus-what-to-do.12558/
      https://www.tinnitustalk.com/threads/tinnitus-a-personal-view.18668/
      https://www.tinnitustalk.com/threads/hyperacusis-as-i-see-it.19174/
       
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    3. Ken219
      Frustrated

      Ken219 Member

      Location:
      New York Area
      Tinnitus Since:
      Summer of 1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure?
      Why do you believe 70 or 80 dB is safe?
       
    4. Nathan
      Caffeine

      Nathan Member

      Location:
      Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      06/23/2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Emo phase, pep band, and concert
      The EPA says that 70 dB for 24 hours is the maximum safe exposure, however, since you had a noise trauma, I would probably go less than this for now. From what I’ve heard, you should ideally listen to music as loud as people talking, so within the 60-70 dB range. You can always go even lower if it’s still uncomfortable. Try taking short breaks periodically to let your ears rest.
       
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    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      I could be wrong, but classical music has a wide dynamic range so if peaks are in the 80's, sustained levels are close to talking levels. A couple hours of this shouldn't be dangerous.
       
    6. Ken219
      Frustrated

      Ken219 Member

      Location:
      New York Area
      Tinnitus Since:
      Summer of 1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure?
      I think you are pushing the top end. Remember the EPA said 2 days after 9/11/2001 that the air quality was good. Thousands have died taking a federal government agency word! 'Normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB. In general, sounds above 85 are harmful,'
       
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    7. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      You would be very surprised @Pedro65 I realise that you miss your music because I listen to classical and opera. I advise you to be very careful with the volume level. My second "noise trauma" happened in 2008 due to listening late one night to a Haydn symphony. I don't want to scare you but to be honest, I think you should give it more time until your ears fully recover. I would leave it at least 3 months preferably 6 before listening to your HI-FI for 2hrs. Then again, it all depends what type of system you have?

      Michael
       
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    8. Ken219
      Frustrated

      Ken219 Member

      Location:
      New York Area
      Tinnitus Since:
      Summer of 1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure?
      @Pedro65 The following is information that shocked me.

      'How does NRR change decibels of exposure?
      When hearing protection is worn, your level of exposure to noise is based on the NRR rating of the protection device being used. Keep in mind, however, that while the NRR is measured in decibels, the hearing protector being used does not reduce the surrounding decibel level by the exact number of decibels associated with that protector’s NRR. For example, if you are at a rock concert where the level of noise exposure is 100 dB and you are wearing earplugs with an NRR 33dB, your level of exposure would not be reduced to 67 dB. Instead, to determine the actual amount of decibel deduction applied (when decibels are measured dBA which is the most common), you take the NRR number (in dB), subtract seven, and then divide by two. Given the previous example, your noise reduction equation would look like the following: (33-7)/2 = 13'
       
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    9. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      @Michael Leigh
      Hi. Yes, my trauma was through headphones. I've always disliked headphones, but my amp was being serviced at the time, so I resorted to headphones. I was careful with volume except for one moment. I was listening to a recording which was mastered at a low level and accidentally pressed my iPad and got the loudest dynamically compressed track for just a second. Of course I immediately took the phones off, but didn't realized the damage I just sustained. When I got my amp back a couple of days later, I noticed that the sound wasn't the same as before. I thought it was the new capacitors in the amp (he-he), needing some burn-in time. Well, a couple days later I woke up with this strange noise in my head. Needless to say, the phones(Sennheiser's 650), as well as the headamp are for sale. With headphones, you are playing russian roulette with your hearing.
      My system:
      Rega P5 turntable, Auralic Aries streamer, Chord Cutest DAC, Exposure 3010S integrated amp, Spendors S5e speakers. Everything is connected to a PS Audio P3 power regenerator.
       
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    10. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      BTW, very nice system. I'm thinking to change my speakers for more sensitive ones. The Spendors sound very nice, but need some power and volume to sound alive, which doesn't go too well with Mr. T.
      I already have read most of your posts. Extremely helpful, the Oasis sound machine at bedtime is priceless.
      Also, the post by Coffeebean about Hyperacusis was very relevant and helpful. Thanks for all your help.
       
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    11. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      HI @Pedro65

      You have made the right decision by not using headphones again. I wish others would take a leaf out of your book as they could save themselves a lot of potential misery and distress if things go wrong. One is definitely playing Russian roulette using headphones especially with "noise induced tinnitus".

      You have a nice system. Rega make very good turntables and bet your Spendors sound good being driven by the Exposure Amp. Since you listen to classical music, I'm a little surprised you are not using a Tube/valve amplifier. I know this is personal choice but I would never go back to Solid-State amplification now that I use 300B valves. The sweetness of classical and especially opera played in class A amplification has to be heard to realise the sheer beauty of valves as there is no hint of harness. The sound is very musical and has a warmth that can be hard for SS Amps to match. It is true, valves may not have the power in watts of SS amplification but I don't want to listen at high volume levels.

      Hope your ears will be okay when you return to listening.
      Michael
       
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    12. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      Thank you.

      I have two systems and both use ProAc speakers. D28 and Tablette Reference 8 Signatures. Both models are now discontinued. If you are looking to upgrade your Spendors I advise auditioning ProAc. I am quite surprised you are not happy with the Spendors as they very good speakers. If I were you, I would audition a valve amplifier with your speakers before you think about changing, as you might be pleasantly surprised how good your Spendors will sound.

      Take care
      Michael
       
    13. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      I agree that anything around 90 dB can be harmful, especially prolonged exposure. However, just in every day life people are exposed to this kind of sounds. As an example, just taking a walk at the avenue my office is located, sound levels don't drop below 70dBs, sometimes with cars and big public trans busses honking their horns, peak levels can get pretty high.
       
    14. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      I do like the sound of the Spendors. My thinking is that more sensitive speakers can sound better at lower volume levels. Again, being hard to drive, the Spendors would need a pretty powerful valve amp ($$$). Money is an issue now. Also, more efficient speakers can sound better with a low power amp, either valve or even low power class A solid state. I can always get the valve amp later. Believe me, this particular Spendor is a power hog and the sound at low volume is kind of lame.
      The ProAcs seem interesting, but again, money is an issue. There are a couple of brands such as Wharfedale and Elac that look interesting. Anyway, I still have to give it some time and get better before starting the audiophile madness again.
       
    15. Ken219
      Frustrated

      Ken219 Member

      Location:
      New York Area
      Tinnitus Since:
      Summer of 1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure?
      @Pedro65 Yes it is true the world is noisy hearing loss is commutative from the day you are born. They say hearing loss an epidemic.

      'Over 5% of the world's population – or 466 million people – has disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people – or one in every ten people – will have disabling hearing loss.'
       
    16. Mister Muso
      Wishful

      Mister Muso Member

      Location:
      Scotland
      Tinnitus Since:
      2007 and spiking since April 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud music
      I don't have any high end high, basically because since I've performed in some of the best concert venues and recording studios in the country I know I would never be satisfied. Since my recent T and H spikes I don't use headphones and I try to avoid any decibel levels higher than the 40s.
       
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    17. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      HI @Pedro65

      I would like to offer you some suggestions before you decide on changing your speakers and hope you don't mind. I have taken a look at the specifications of your Spendors and they have a respectable 87dB sensitivity. Recommended amplifiers are from 15 to 200 watts. Therefore, your Exposure amplifier at 100 watts per channel should be able to drive these easily and with aplomb. This leads me to believe your system may not be setup to sound at its best and probably doesn't "sing" the way that it should.

      I don't mean to tell another Audiophile how to suck eggs but if you're not careful, you might make some costly mistakes whenever you decide to upgrade. Wharfedale and Elac speakers are okay but they are not in the same class as your Spendors! When a HI-FI system is set up correctly it should Sing. Some Audiophiles call it "Synergy or Audio Nirvana. When the Audio system "sings" you'll look at your speakers and they will completely disappear and all you will hear is the music, which will be presented to you in three dimensions: Width, Height and depth. On a good HI-FI system (that's set up correctly) you should be able to pick-out where the musicians are placed in the room and there should be a clear demarcation between the instruments. Close your eyes and you will get the feeling that you have been transported to another realm. The hairs on the back of your neck will feel raised and you'll feel goose bumps along your arms and legs. The better the HI-FI system the more pronounced these sensations will be. Please don't think that I'm kidding because I am not, I am quite serious.

      All the above is achievable and a lot more, but your system has to be set up correctly along with other important factors, which I will explain below. This will determine how much of this effect will be presented to you.

      The first thing is to make sure your Audio equipment is placed on dedicated good quality "equipment rack". This will help to keep vibrations from the floor, caused by the speakers reaching your Amplifier , Turntable and colouring the sound. I cannot stress the importance of isolating your audio equipment enough. When done correctly the rewards will be huge. If you are able to place your Turntable on a dedicated " Wall shelf" made for this purpose that will better.

      Interconnect cables and speaker cables can make or break a system. Please audition these in your system and buy the best that you can afford. I use cables make by the "Chord Company" here in the UK. If your HI-FI equipment has a detachable Mains cord, then I advise upgrading these to Good quality HI-FI screened cable. This will help screen mains interference. In addition to this, mains conditioners are a Must as they will supply clean electricity to your system and you'll soon realise the benefits. I also use Nordost QX4 and Qx2 mains purifiers.They will work with any existing mains conditioner that you have. Please do not underestimate these, once you hook them up to your system, you'll realise what you've been missing! https://nordost.com/qrt/qx-power-purifiers.php

      Room acoustics can make a big difference to the sound of your HI-FI . Plenty of information about this online. I have two audio systems with one room acoustically treated. If you ever decide to upgrade your Exposure amplifier, then I advise you to consider auditioning Valve/Tube amplifier. You can start off with an amplifier using EL34 tubes or KT88. These amplifiers will sound better than most solid state amps. The sound will be warmer and more musical. Many Audiophiles (including myself) consider an amplifier using 300B power tubes/valves to be the best. These tubes run hot and are pure class A. The sound is smooth warm very musical without a hint of harshness in the mid-range and treble frequencies. Once you hear the 300b amplifer you will never want to go back to a solid state amplifier.

      I have two 300b amplifers. One runs in Push-Pull mode the other is Parallel Single-Ended. Both are 20 watts per channel and can drive my ProAc D28 speakers easily, which can handle amps from 10 to 200 watts. My ProAc Tablettes, Reference 8 Signatures are 10 to 100watts. Both amps can drive the little Tablettes without a problem and with very good sound stage. Size: 10inch High x 6inch wide x 9inch depth. The speakers are placed on Partington Broadside speaker stands, partly filled with lead-shot.

      Both systems have synergy and create a wide open sound stage having three dimensions. I can easily pick where the musicians are placed and there's a clear demarcation between instruments.

      Please remember your tinnitus and loud sounds. Try carrying out some of my suggestions along with tweaks of your own, and you'll probably find there is no need for high volume levels, especially with classical. This way the chance of getting a spike or noise trauma is greatly reduced.

      Best of luck and I wish you well.
      Michael
       
      Last edited: Jun 29, 2019
    18. Jack Straw
      Balanced

      Jack Straw Member Podcast Patron Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame Advocate

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      1990s
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Infection, Acoustic Trauma
      You can enjoy listening to music at 60-70 dB which is talking level. There is no reason to listen to it higher than that. 70-80 dB for music is pretty loud even for someone who doesn't have hyperacusis.
       
    19. TheDanishGirl
      Sad

      TheDanishGirl Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Denmark
      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2017 (H since 06/2017)
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      long term noise exposure (headphones), maybe some stress.
      75 dB is loud? Its pretty moderate to me.
       
    20. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Pedro65

      Pedro65 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      5/18/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma
      @Michael Leigh
      My personal experience with the Spendors as to their relative lack of sensitivity is consistent with the the Stereophile review measurements of the speaker, more like 82db. Believe me, being a graduate of Indiana University Music School (bass trombone) and having played professionally, I’ve always been very conscious of the “visual” element to audio like imaging and soundstage. Those things are very important to me and my system as it is, is pretty decent in those parameters, at least for the money. Is just the volume levels that concerns me, as I don’t want to make things worse. Anyway I appreciate your suggestions and I’ll have plenty of time to make decisions, as I still need time to recover.
       
    21. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      I hear you @Pedro65 and I agree with you to take your time as you don't want to spike your tinnitus. My advice to you, is not to think that 60dB or 70dB cannot spike your tinnitus as the previous poster to you has said. If you follow this advice you risk spiking your tinnitus and hyperacusis. In theory these figures are correct and shouldn't cause you any discomfort. However, you have suffered a "Noise trauma" and now have tinnitus with hyperacusis.. Therefore, it will take time for your auditory system to recover believe me I know what I'm talking about. When I developed tinnitus with severe hyperacusis 23 years ago, I couldn't listen to my HI-FI for nearly a year. I measured 30 to 40db from my listening position and it spiked my tinnitus.

      I know everyone is different so just be very careful and don't push it.
      Best of luck with the HI-FI and please think about my suggestions.

      Michael
       
      Last edited: Jun 29, 2019
    22. Jack Straw
      Balanced

      Jack Straw Member Podcast Patron Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame Advocate

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      1990s
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Infection, Acoustic Trauma
      75 dB is quite loud. Go in a room and turn your TV up to 75 dB and you’ll see that it is quite loud.
       
    23. MSF

      MSF Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Music events/drums
      I do music recording in my home studio and I typically keep the dB below 70, usually around 60-65 peak dB(C). But I also use nearfield monitors so it's easy to get pretty clear sound at relatively low volumes. Above 70 definitely starts feeling "loud" from where I am seated. Even then I do find my ears will get fatigued after maybe an hour or two--I don't think it's the traditional fatigue of listening to too louds sounds, but the H kicking in. In any case I try not to let it stop me from being productive, although on days when it's bad this does kill off my interest in making music as all I want is silence!
       
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    24. pathworker2017
      No Mood

      pathworker2017 Member

      Location:
      Belfast United Kingdom
      Tinnitus Since:
      2012 approx
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      currently unknown, conductive hearing loss suspected
      I can very much empathise with you as I also use NFM’s in a home setting, and similarly am getting less productive, the real bane for me is that the virtually constant presence of tinnitus precludes any chance of silence.
       
    25. HeavyMantra
      Depressed

      HeavyMantra Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Sweden
      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2017. Worsened 10/2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Headphones, concerts with earplugs?
      A company has loaned me studio monitors, an amplifier and cables for 4500 dollars. This company specializes in studio monitors that perform well at the lowest volume possible.

      Maybe I'll buy this setup... Or maybe I'll just sell all my music equipment and try to find some other reason to live. Not sure yet.
       
    26. Daniel Lion
      Ape-like

      Daniel Lion Member Benefactor

      Location:
      SE Asia
      Tinnitus Since:
      2017
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise trauma, hearing loss
      I believe we can find other reasons to live.

      Coincidentally Lou Reed spent more than a decade practicing Tai Chi according to his wife and soul mate Laurie Anderson, an accomplished musician.
       
    27. HeavyMantra
      Depressed

      HeavyMantra Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Sweden
      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2017. Worsened 10/2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Headphones, concerts with earplugs?
      Yes, I think you're right. There's going to be a period of deep mourning first, IF I have to give it up completely which I doubt.

      Losing my attachment to music would certainly open up some new avenues in life. It's the highest form of pleasure I know, but in the end it's just that...
       
    28. MSF

      MSF Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Music events/drums
      I guess the flipside of that is to keep the music running! I went through a period of several months where I just wasn't getting anything done, but thankfully I've managed to flip the switch and get the creative impulses going again. Being pretty motivated to finish music has allowed me to get over the psychological impetus of H (and T) but of course there are still days when it's good to take a rest.
       

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