News Articles

The following news articles document the concern over damage to hearing caused by extended listening to music with headphones at high volumes on portable music players:

Youth of Today Risk Going Deaf Early Warns New Charity Partnership
By Deafness Research UK, July 20, 2006

Hey There iPod Listener, Can You Hear Me?
By Mike Donovan, College Avenue, Colorado State University, Spring 2006

Don't blare that MP3 player, researchers warn
By Anne Broache, CNET News.com, March 14, 2006

Popular Technology Unpopular with Ear's Hair Cells
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, February 28, 2006

Apple sued over potential hearing loss in iPod buyers
By DAN GOODIN, Associated Press Writer, February 1, 2006

Little ear buds can be a big problem
By Karen Shideler, January 30, 2006, Knight Ridder

The iPod and the Fury
By Gregory Mott, Washing Post, January 17, 2006

Behind the Music: IPods and Hearing Loss
Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2006

Pete Townshend Warns iPod Users
Associated Press, January 4, 2006

'Ear bud' headphones can cause hearing loss, experts warn
By Lee Bowman, Associated Press, December 29, 2005

iPod Headphones May Damage Hearing
Electricnews.net, December 20, 2005

iPod's Popular Earbuds: Hip Or Harmful?
Science Daily, December 16, 2005

Play it loud, and you may pay for it
San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2005

MP3 Players Can Cause Hearing Loss
New York Times, September 6, 2005

Is it your iPod causing that ringing in your ears?
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 August 2005

The MP3 Generation: At Risk for Hearing Loss?
WebMD, August 26, 2005

Say what? Headphones exacerbate hearing loss
USA Today, September 12, 2005

Hearing loss is on rise — what was that you said?
Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2005

From earphones to hearing aids
Chicago Tribune, August 21, 2005

MP3 users hearing damage warning
BBC News UK, August 18, 2005

Blasting iPods potentially harmful to hearing
Argus Leader, August 15, 2005

Can your iPod cause you to go deaf?
NBC News, August 04, 2005

Hearing problems of middle age are affecting the younger generation
Newswise, August 01, 2005

Mobiles could turn college kids deaf
Asian News International, July 30, 2005

Digital music craze stores up ear trouble for iPod fanatics
By Richard Gray, May 8, 2005, news.scotsman.com

Youth of Today Risk Going Deaf Early Warns New Charity Partnership
Deafness Research UK, July 20, 2006,

Today's youth are at risk of going deaf up to 30 years earlier than their parents because they are listening to MP3 players too loudly and too often.

A new national survey [1], carried out to mark the launch of a partnership between Specsavers Hearcare and Deafness Research UK, found that 14% of people spend up to a staggering 28 hours a week listening to their personal music player. More than a third of people who have experienced ringing in their ears after listening to loud music, listen to their MP3 player every day. Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, is a sign of damage to their hearing.

Over the next year, Specsavers Hearcare has pledged to raise 100,000 for Deafness Research UK and help raise awareness of hearing loss, which affects one in seven of the UK population and is the nation’s second most common disability.

Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK, says: "Many young people are regularly using MP3 players for long periods of time and are frighteningly unaware of the fact that loud noise can permanently damage your hearing.

"More than three quarters of people own a personal music player and sophisticated sound systems in their car and homes, which allow them to blast out music day and night. We also spend more time today in bars and clubs where the noise is so loud we can barely hear the person opposite us and few people – particularly the 16-34 year old age group - are aware of the damaging effect all this can have on their hearing."

The survey also revealed that less than half the population have ever had a hearing test, many of which may have taken place years ago when they were at school.

Vivienne Michael continues: "Hearing loss can make life unbearable. It cuts people off from their family and friends and makes everyday communication extremely difficult. We want people to realise that their hearing is as important as their sight and protect their ears against any potential damage.

"That is why we have joined forces with Specsavers Hearcare to further tackle hearing loss by raising awareness among the public about the causes and impact that this potentially devastating condition can have."

The survey also found that:
  • 38% of 16-34 year olds are not aware that listening to loud music on a personal music player, going to loud bars/nightclubs/concert, playing loud music in the car or working with machinery, can damage their hearing.
  • 28% of 16-34 year olds visit noisy bars, pubs or nightclubs once or twice a week.
  • 82% of people who have experienced tinnitus after listening to loud music go to nightclubs: of these, a quarter goes once a week or more.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, noise levels exceeding 105 decibels can damage hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes, but many people are not aware how loud noise around them can be.

Chairman of Specsavers Hearcare Doug Perkins has welcomed the new research: "Specsavers revolutionised the British attitude to eyecare back in the 80s and now we plan to do the same again with our new hearing service, by working with Deafness Research UK to raise awareness of the need to protect our hearing. We are committed to improve hearing provision for all. Our aim is to make hear care more accessible for everyone by offering an affordable high street hearing service throughout the UK."

The optical giant already has 140 hearing centres in existing stores and plans to open a further 60 by the end of 2006.

For further information on hearing loss, visit the Deafness Research UK website at
www.deafnessresearch.org.uk. For further information on Specsavers Hearcare or to locate your nearest store, visit www.specsavers.co.uk

[1] Telephone omnibus survey of 1000+ UK residents aged 16-60+ years, carried out 10-11 June 2006
[2] www.lhh.org/noise/decibel.htm

Hey There iPod Listener, Can You Hear Me?
by Mike Donovan, College Avenue, Colorado State University, Spring 2006

They are taking over campus.

They are in the library at the neighboring computer.

They are sitting next to you on the bus.

They are iPod headphones.

The headphones, known as earbuds, have become the center of controversy. Earbuds have been accused of leading to deafness in users. Most portable mp3 players have similar headphones, but since the iPod and its earbuds are the most popular, they are at the middle of the deafness debate.

On Jan. 31, John Patterson, a Louisiana citizen, sued Apple, the maker of iPod, claiming the company was selling a defective product that is too loud for consumers. According to the lawsuit, the earbuds are "inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss.”

CSU students have varied opinions about these claims. Nelson Hevner, a junior soil and crop sciences major, agreed that listening to his iPod shuffle sometimes gives him a headache.

“I have a ringing in my ear for about five minutes after I listen to my shuffle,” Hevner said.

However, Madeline Mosier, a sophomore English literature major, has not encountered these problems.

“I don’t know why people’s ears ring after listening to their iPods, but mine don’t,” Mosier said.

According to critics, the major reason for hearing loss is the number of decibels being released so close to the ear. Apple has not officially released the number of decibels that iPods can reach, but research completed by Boston Children’s Hospital demonstrated that the maximum decibel level expelled from an iPod is about 110 decibels. That is equivalent to the noise produced by a power saw or a baby crying.

Depending on the length of the listening session, any level over 85 decibels can produce hearing loss over a period of time. Volumes of 120 decibels or more can have long-term effects even if the listener is only subjected to it once. In addition, earbuds can be about eight decibels louder than regular headphones.

Over 42 million iPods have been sold in the United States, and just by looking around CSU, it is obvious students love listening to them.

So what can be done for the students who are worried about their hearing, but don’t want to rid themselves of their shiny new iPods? Deanna Meinke, an audiology professor at the University of Northern Colorado, said students need to take precautions.

“The risk is there but the risk lies with the user and where they set the volume,” Meinke said.

Experts suggest taking breaks when listening to an iPod for an extended period of time to reduce the risk of hearing loss. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that listening to an iPod at 100 decibels for any amount of time over two hours is potentially harmful.

On March 29, 2006, Apple announced it was unveiling a software update for its newly released iPods. The update allows parents to set a maximum volume to their children’s iPods. The update, which can be downloaded at www.apple.com, is not mandatory and does little to curb the high volume that most CSU students can listen to. 

While the United States currently has no federal law dealing with the amount of noise produced by iPods, mp3 players or even compact disc players, a congressman from Massachusetts is looking into that possibility. Edward J. Markey has written a letter to National Institutes of Health asking them to research whether iPods and other devices contribute to premature hearing loss, and determine if earbuds are significantly more damaging than regular headphones.

Some countries have already established laws limiting the number of decibels produced by portable audio devices. A French law states that no portable audio device may give off more than 100 decibels. The first batch of iPods released in France exceeded that number and subsequently had to be re-released.

In the early 1980s, when Sony Walkmans were released, similar warnings were issued by hearing experts. Americans continued to listen to their Walkmans, despite warnings of future consequences.

Approximately 30 million Americans have considerable hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. That number has increased substantially from the approximately 13 million who suffered from hearing loss in 1971. While the Walkman is not the only reason for this, the invention of portable music players is certainly a contributing factor. Famed music writer Norman Lebrecht believes that Walkmans had a lasting impact on the American people.

“A generation’s ears were physically wrecked,” Lebrecht said.

Could the generation of iPod listeners eventually see the same hearing loss as the Walkman generation did? The answer seems to be yes. Hearing loss will rise significantly, according to the National Institute on Deafness (NID). The NID believes that by 2030, as many as 78 million Americans may have hearing loss.

So the next time you are listening to the Black Eyed Peas on your iPod and you feel the urge to “pump it louder,” think about the consequences. Because by listening to an iPod at its highest volume now, you may not be able to listen to anything at all later.

Don't blare that MP3 player, researchers warn
By Anne Broache, CNET News.com, March 14, 2006

WASHINGTON--The warning here from a panel of politicians and hearing-loss researchers rang loud and clear: Turn down that iPod.

Or at the very least, don't blare the Apple Computer gadget or other portable media players for hours on end, and think about investing in a pair of headphones designed to block background chatter and, in theory, stifle the need to crank up the volume in the first place.

Concern over hearing damage wreaked by noisy personal electronics is nothing new, but the booming sales of MP3 players and other such headphone-dependent gadgets could prompt a whole new breed of danger, audiologists cautioned at a press conference hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA.

Some evidence, they said, lies in a new ASHA-commissioned survey, released at Tuesday's event, about the listening habits of 1,000 adults and 301 high schoolers. Random telephone interviews found that just more than half of the youngsters and less than 40 percent of the adults had experienced at least one of four hearing-loss symptoms. Those symptoms included ringing in the ears, saying "what" or "huh" during "normal" conversation, and turning up the volume on their television or radio.

The survey doesn't attribute the symptoms directly to the portable gadgets. It merely suggests the possibility of a connection--noting, for instance, that 40 percent of both students and adults reported setting their Apple iPods at what they'd consider "somewhat loud" or "extremely loud" volume levels. When the question was broadened to MP3 players in general, that number rose to about 60 percent of teenagers and fell to about one-third of adults surveyed.

The new gadgets are especially ripe for additional study because of such factors as the ever-growing life of players' batteries, which promotes longer playback time, and the popular use of close-fitting earbuds, panelists said.

"Little research has been done on the impact of this new technology," said Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with technology issues. "We need to make sure that when millions of consumers plug up their ears to travel to work or work out, they are not taking on too much for their ears to handle."

Excessive noise to blame

Speaking at Tuesday's press conference, Markey and New Jersey Republican Mike Ferguson both pledged to push for greater research and education on the issue. In late January, Markey called on the National Institutes of Health to investigate a number of questions about possible connections between the newer portable media players and premature hearing loss. According to ASHA statistics, excessive noise is to blame for at least one-third of the more than 30 million Americans who report having significant hearing loss.

In a response to Markey's request released on Tuesday, James Battey, director of NIH's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, indicated that he agreed with the need for additional research--particularly on whether the earbuds frequently used with iPods pose any more harm to the ears than do traditional "earmuff-style" ones.

Such a setback in youngsters can prove especially devastating, said Anne Marie Tharpe, a Vanderbilt University audiology researcher. Her department recently studied 1,200 children deemed to have "minimal" hearing loss and found they had lower standardized test scores, greater stress and behavioral problems, and lower energy levels and self-esteem than their "normal-hearing" peers, she said.

Apple, for its part, already faces a class action lawsuit backed by a group of iPod users seeking compensation for hearing damage they claim was caused by the devices.

The suit alleges, among other things, that Apple has not limited the device's sound output to a safe decibel level for its American customers, despite complying with the French government's 100-decibel cap. (For comparison's sake, a chainsaw, a snowmobile and a motorcycle each produce about 100 decibels of noise, according to ASHA statistics.)

The U.S. Congress would be wise to consider requiring such limits, said Northwestern University audiology researcher Dean Garstecki, emphasizing that manufacturers "have an obligation to limit the output of the devices to a level that does not cause hearing loss."

Popular Technology Unpopular with Ear's Hair Cells
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, February 28, 2006

In products that plug into the ear, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association testing finds decibel levels high enough to destroy the hair cells, causing permanent hearing loss

ROCKVILLE, MD, February 28, 2006. Popular technology — not just the personal music player, iPod — could prove harmful to the hearing of the nation, and especially to that of the young, if it is not used properly, testing by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests.

With media attention focused on the ubiquitous iPod, ASHA investigated further, testing the decibel levels of a range of randomly chosen devices that produce sound which is plugged into the ear.

Altogether, ASHA looked at nine examples of popular technology, including the iPod, several additional MP3 players for both adults and younger children, a lap top, and a pocket PC.

Test results underscore the need for a concerted public education so that consumers can safely enjoy society's most popular technology, ASHA experts say.

"All of the devices we tested can produce sound well above the maximum safety level of 85 decibels," Pam Mason, ASHA's Director of Audiology Professional Practices, reports. Irreparable hearing loss could result, Mason notes, her concern bolstered by recent research as well as accounts that Boomer icons like rockers Pete Townshend of The Who and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac now have trouble hearing because of their long and constant exposure to excessively loud music.

ASHA randomly tested music on the following popular technology:

Four personal stereo systems marketed to adults: the Apple iPod, the Creative ZEN Nano Plus, the Sony Walkman MP3/TRAC3plus, and the iRiver T10; the Dell Latitude D610 Laptop; the Dell Axim X5 Handheld; the Motorola Motostart H700 Bluetooth (tested voice only); the MGA Entertainment Bratz Liptunes MP3 Player; and the Disney Mix Stick.

ASHA used a laboratory sound-level meter for the testing. All of the examined devices produced sound well above the safety level identified by federal standards for controlling occupational noise exposure. While the well-publicized iPod had an upper range of more than 120 decibels, lesser known but still popular products like the Bratz Liptunes and Mix Stick--MP3 players marketed to younger children-nearly matched the iPod, showing decibel levels as high as 120 and 118 respectively.

Specifically, ASHA's testing showed the following (numbers reflect decibel-dBA-readings):

Volume Setting Full 3/4 1/2 1/4 Low
Apple iPod (15 GB) 120-125 107-111 98-101 80-83 68-72
Creative Zen Nano Plus 114-118 105-109 85-92 77-82 67-75
Sony Walkman MP3/ATRAC3plus 108-115 98-104 85-94 78-83 55-62
iRiver T10 115-122 105-112 98-106 88-92 70-79
Dell Latitude D610 Laptop 112-114 108-114 102-108 85-96 74-77
Dell Axim X5 Handheld 115-120 107-112 104-106 85-92 77-82
Motorola Motostart H700 Bluetooth 82-106 68-73 52-60
Bratz Liptunes MP3 player 115-120 112-115 90-94 69-72 45-50
Disney Mix Stick 112-118 100-105 87-99 70-76 60-66

* Motorola — one quarter and three quarters readings not tested.

"The high decibel range on products like the Bratz and Mix Stick are especially worrisome because they are marketed to younger children," Mason says. "For a child, even minimal hearing loss can have devastating, life-long ramifications, significantly impairing their educational and social development." 

ASHA encourages consumers to lower the volume, limit the time spent listening, and wear ear phones that block out unwanted "ambient" sound, reducing the need to increase volume levels.

ASHA would also like to work with the makers of such devices to educate the public about safe usage, with a particular focus on reaching younger children.

"Many kids who are using this type of technology are plugging virtual rock concerts into their ears," Mason says. "Parents, grandparents and all other significant adults in our children's lives need to be aware of the risk and make sure the children are, too." 

Search ASHA.org for more information about this topic

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 123,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.

For further information, visit www.asha.org.

Apple sued over potential hearing loss in iPod buyers
By Dan Goodin, Associated Press Writer, February 1, 2006

An owner of Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod music player filed a federal lawsuit against the computer maker, claiming the device can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

The portable music players are "inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss," according to the complaint, which seeks class action status. The suit, filed on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., seeks compensation for unspecified plaintiffs' damages and upgrades that will make iPods safer.

Apple has sold more than 42 million of the devices since they went on sale in 2001, including 14 million in the fourth quarter last year. The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, the complaint states.

Although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause noise-induced hearing isn't any higher, experts said.

"We have numerous products in the marketplace that have the potential to damage hearing," said Deanna Meinke, a professor of audiology at the University of Northern Colorado. "The risk is there but the risk lies with the user and where they set the volume."
Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet declined to comment.

The Cupertino-based company ships a warning with each iPod that cautions "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume."

Apple was forced to pull the iPod from store shelves in France and upgrade software on the device to limit sound to 100 decibels, but has not followed suit in the United States, according to the complaint. White headphones commonly referred to as ear buds, which ship with the iPod, also contribute to noise-induced hearing loss because they do not dilute the sound entering the ear and are closer to the ear canal than other sound sources, the complaint states.

Apple has also contributed to hearing loss in iPod users by including phrases such as "crank up the tunes" and "bring in the noise" in lesson manuals related to the device, according to the complaint.

Patterson bought an iPod in 2005, according to the complaint, which didn't say if he has suffered hearing loss as a result of using it. Attorneys for Patterson did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Little ear buds can be a big problem
Cranking up Volume on Personal Music Players Puts Hearing at Risk

By Karen Shideler, January 30, 2006 Knight Ridder

WICHITA, Kan.- If Ray Hull's "artificial ear" is telling the truth, it's time to invest in hearing-aid companies. Our iPods and other personal music players are destroying our hearing, he says.

But it's our fault because we turn the volume up and leave it up, and we insist on ear buds that concentrate the sound.
Our home theater systems are a problem, too.

Hull is a professor at Wichita State University and a nationally recognized expert on noise and hearing loss. He was quoted in a number of national publications a few years ago in connection with his study showing that the noise level in most aerobics classes could cause hearing loss.
Lately, he's been asking people to lend him their ear buds, without changing the volume setting, so he can check sound levels with his "artificial ear" testing equipment. It measures how sound is received in a human ear.

He's found sound levels as high as 120 decibels. That, he said, is the equivalent of standing 100 feet behind a Boeing 707 at full thrust for takeoff. At that setting, your hearing can be permanently damaged after 3.7 minutes — about the length of one song.

With ear buds, "there's no escape from the intensity," Hull said, so the inner ear ``essentially anesthetizes itself.''

It's the same effect you get when you walk into a nightclub and think "Wow, this place is loud" but 15 minutes later don't notice the noise. The damage is still being done.

Dangerous Decibels, an Oregon public health project, estimates that of the roughly 40 million Americans with hearing loss, 10 million cases can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss.

To protect your hearing, Hull suggested turning your music player on full volume, then quickly backing it off about 30 percent. "That's going to be much safer," he said. Even at that level, give your ears a rest after an hour.

For home theater systems, consider ear protection or turn down the volume. To be sure it's at a safe level, you can check it with a sound-level meter that will cost you about $50, Hull said. A level no higher than 90 to 95 decibels for a 1 1/2-hour movie should be safe.

And if the thought of needing hearing aids at a young age isn't enough to deter you, Hull points out that loud noise can damage your balance as well.

"Sound can do terrible things," he said.

The iPod and the Fury
A Reality Check of the Recent Reports on Mobile Music and Hearing Loss

By Gregory Mott, Washington Post staff writer, January 17, 2006

If recent reports are to be believed, those sleek iPod earbuds may carry risks beyond marking wearers as mugger-bait.

As if to rain on Apple's holiday parade — the company reported sales of 14 million iPods in the last quarter of 2005, bringing total sales for the product to more than 42 million — audiologists and other hearing experts have been issuing warnings in recent weeks that improper use of iPods and other personal stereo systems can dramatically heighten risk of hearing loss, particularly in young people.

A HEARING PRE-TEST

There's nothing wrong with your hearing, you say. You just weren't paying attention.

Relax. You may be right. But if there's doubt, you can get a pretty good idea whether you've got treatable hearing loss before you sit in an audiologist's chair. Just take a self-test provided online by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

According to the professional audiology group, more than two "yes" answers is a signal to have your hearing tested. For information, visit ASHA's Web site or call 800-638-8255 or 301-897-8682.

Take the Test

Is this just a case of advocacy groups seizing upon a teachable moment to fly their banners — or is there really a chance that being able to hold your entire music library in your palm can come at the cost of your hearing? Time for a reality check.

Audiology experts agree that hearing loss is increasing in the United States. According to widely cited figures from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the number of Americans age 3 and older with some form of auditory disorder has more than doubled since 1971, from 13.2 million to about 30 million today. Of those, one-third are said to be people with noise-induced hearing loss.
The trend clearly predates the iPod; in fact, it traces its roots to the dawn of the industrial age, according to Pam Mason, ASHA's director of audiology professional practices. These new devices merely add to a daily din of environmental noise that includes traffic, construction, jets, nightclubs, leaf blowers and surround sound home theater systems.

"A certain percentage of people are going to experience hearing loss because of genetic predisposition, and by age 65 about a third of the population will experience some age-related hearing loss," or presbycusis, said Brenda Lonsbury-Martin, ASHA's director of research and science. "Old-age hearing is an accumulation of exposure to loud noise over the years, exposure to ototoxic drugs [more than 130 medications, including some commonly used drugs, can cause or contribute to hearing loss, according to ASHA], smoking and a number of things that accumulate over time. Once this loss starts to occur, if you continue to add noise insult, you're more at risk."

Hearing damage occurs when loud sound destroys tiny hair cells in the inner ear. These cells are responsible for converting sound waves into electrical impulses, which are then sent to the brain. Once 25 to 30 percent of these cells disappear, Lonsbury-Martin said, you begin to experience hearing loss.

Researchers looking at users of personal cassette players and Walkman-type portable compact disc players have found increased risk of hearing loss among people who listen to loud music through headphones for extended periods of time. And there are anecdotal reports of hearing damage complaints associated with newer devices.

But essentially, iPods are too new, and noise-induced hearing loss too gradual, to be reflected in the latest statistics.

"Noise-induced hearing loss is something that develops slowly and insidiously. . . . Even in those people who are rather susceptible, it would be unexpected for them to develop any significant hearing loss for a while, meaning years and maybe a decade," said Brian J. Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital in Boston.

iPod, Therefore I Hurt?

Many recent warnings about hearing loss and personal music devices cite Fligor's research on portable CD players. In the case of one brand of player matched with a particular brand of earphone, he found that listeners could get a sound dose as high as 120 decibels. This is comparable to the sound level at a loud rock concert or sandblasting; it could lead to risk of hearing damage after 7.5 minutes of exposure.

Preliminary data on iPods and similar devices have found lower maximum levels — above 100 decibels (the noise volume of a chainsaw; risk of hearing damage after two hours), but not higher than 115 decibels (a football game in a loud stadium; risk of hearing damage after 15 minutes), Fligor said. To fully understand the potential impact of these devices, it is important to know that the sound is traveling a tiny distance from your earbud to your eardrum rather than being diffused in a football stadium or concert arena.

Apple declined to provide information on the maximum output level for its devices, and noted that the federal government does not require manufacturers to provide such information to consumers.

Of course, some criticism of these newer devices stems from the very technological advances that have helped to make them so popular. Digital technology has made it possible to play music in these devices at loud volumes without the signal distortion produced by, say, a transistor radio. And Apple touts its newest iPods as being capable of holding up to 15,000 songs and being able to play for up to 20 hours on a fully charged battery. Therein lies potential for trouble.

"If you use them at high volume for eight hours there's no doubt — you could have steel ears and you would still have some damage," Lonsbury-Martin said. "There's a point where even resistant ears will break down."

But hearing damage isn't the same thing as hearing loss, and the effects of temporary exposure to loud sound don't have to be lasting "if you pay attention to your ear health," said Lonsbury-Martin.

She said the advice to a personal stereo user who experiences muffled or dulled hearing after listening would be the same as for any person coming out of a loud environment: Don't go back into the loud environment, be it a noisy club or a set of ear buds, until the symptoms pass. And consider protecting yourself against similar exposure in the future.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

Fligor's findings with CD players led him to prescribe as a safe portable stereo dosage one hour per day at 60 percent of maximum volume, a level that would fall below the 85 decibel mark at which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says the risk of hearing damage begins. Fligor notes that this is meant more as a guide to self-regulation than a hard and fast rule.

Individual tolerances and preferred listening levels vary, said Fligor, who uses an iPod himself and sets his personal levels at two hours per day at about 89 decibels, which would be slightly above his 60 percent benchmark.

Even if iPod users were to limit listening to an hour per day, experts agree, ambient noise — on the Metro, on city streets or even in an office setting — could challenge efforts to keep the volume down to 60 percent of maximum.

"Many people try to use the iPod to try to override the background noise wherever they may be," said audiologist Dean Garstecki, professor and chairman of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University in Chicago. "Depending on the level of background noise, people have been known to crank up the volume to a level that could be damaging to their hearing."

In informal research, Wichita State University audiologist Ray Hull asked students to take off their headphones in the name of science. Taking readings with "a fairly sophisticated" sound level meter, Hull found typical listening levels approaching 120 decibels.

While it may be that some people just prefer to listen to their music as loud as possible, Hull said, another factor is at work as well.
"A person can be listening at 60 percent volume, but then as the auditory system adapts to the intensity of the sound, the perception of the intensity is that it is becoming less, so the response is to continue to turn the volume up," Hull said.

Audiologists agree that it is important to guard against this desensitization by minding the volume dial rather than simply trusting your ears.
A good measure for how loud is too loud: "If you're standing across an elevator cab — that's about three feet away — if you can hear someone else's music, that person is giving themselves a hearing loss," said ASHA's Mason.

Hearing Aids?

The iPod's earbuds, the essential accessory that have become almost as much of a status symbol as the device itself, have been a particular focus for those expressing concern about the potential for hearing loss. No less an eminence than Pete Townshend of The Who warned fans in a post on the Internet earlier this month that long-term use of headphones at loud volumes can lead to the kind of hearing loss that he has experienced in recent years.

Experts generally dismiss Townshend's assertion that his hearing loss is due more to headphone use than with performing for four decades in a notoriously loud rock band. But there is reason to believe that listening to music through earbuds is less safe than, say, sitting across the room from a set of stereo speakers.

While listening to music on a home stereo system, Mason said, "I could be sitting several feet away from the sound source, so the sound dissipates in the environment and isn't directly funneled into my ear. With foam earphones there is still some dissipation of the sound. When you wear an earbud, it's fitting right down into your ear canal."

"It's basically a matter of physics," noted Fligor, that earphones that are smaller and closer to the ear produce higher sound levels. But he is quick to add that there is no evidence that earphones actually cause people to listen at louder volumes.

While earbuds fit over the outer ear canal, the basic models do so without blocking out background noise, meaning users often have to turn up the volume to hear music over ambient sound. Audiologists say those hoping to keep the volume down might want to upgrade from the earbuds that are packaged with personal stereo systems.

These headphones come in two main types: in-the-ear, noise-attenuating earphones that work like earplugs to passively block out ambient sound, and noise-canceling headphones that actively capture and remove background noise. Some of Fligor's research has been funded by Etymotic Research Inc., which makes noise-attenuating earphones.

Of course, these headphones tend to be expensive: Eytmotic's product for iPods costs $149, according to the company's Web site. Bose's widely advertised Quiet Comfort 2 noise-canceling headphones cost $299.

By limiting the amount of background interference, noise-reducing earphones can help personal stereo system users enjoy the listening experience while keeping the device's volume down.

For those who can manage it, experts agree, there is a happy space at about 65 to 70 decibels, the level of normal conversation. At that level, a person could listen indefinitely without worrying about contributing to hearing loss.

Comments: mottg@washpost.com.

Behind the Music: IPods and Hearing Loss
Some Doctors Raise Concerns That MP3 Players May Cause Damage With Heavy Use

By Jane Spencer, Staff Reporter of the Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2006

You've heard of BlackBerry thumb. Now there's iPod ear.

As use of portable MP3 music players soars, concerns are emerging that the gadgets may contribute to hearing damage. Some doctors say they are seeing younger and younger patients with signs of noise-induced hearing loss that wouldn't typically emerge before middle age. And they are worried that the constant use of MP3 players, which blare music directly into the ears, may be partly to blame.

Similar concerns were raised when the first generation of portable music players, including Sony Corp.'s Walkman, hit the market in the 1980s. But the latest portable stereos — including Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, and other players by iRiver, Sony and SanDisk — can hold thousands of songs and have longer-lasting batteries than older players. As a result, people are listening to the devices for much longer periods of time. Because hearing damage is directly related to the duration of exposure — not just the volume — one concern is that the steady, long-term exposure to even moderately loud music could contribute to premature hearing loss.

Hearing specialists at centers such as the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, Children's Hospital Boston and the American Academy of Audiology say the effect they are seeing now may be only the beginning, because accumulated noise damage can take years before it causes noticeable problems. "We're only seeing a few teenagers with hearing loss at this point," says Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston. But, he adds that many others may have subtle hearing loss that they have yet to recognize, "and by the time they do, they'll have done substantial damage."

The issue hasn't been well studied, and no one knows for certain how much hearing loss might be attributable to music players. But concern over the risk is helping drive an increasing market for headset styles that minimize noise exposure. Sony, Panasonic Corp. Etymotic Research Inc., Shure Inc. and Bose Corp. produce sets that aim to block out background noise, so you can hear the music better at lower volumes.
Research is also beginning to explore the risks associated with recreational listening and seek to determine safe volume limits and exposure times, including studies at Children's Hospital Boston.

"We have really good information on how much noise exposure you can have over time," says Jennifer Derebery, an otolaryngologist at the House Ear Clinic. "But we have absolutely no idea if those levels are valid for a direct feed of sound into the ear."
The concerns are emerging as sales of MP3 players explode. Roughly 38 million MP3 players were shipped to U.S. retailers in 2005, according to forecasts by the research firm IDC, and an estimated 28% of the U.S. population owns a player. Apple controls about 70% of the MP3 player market, according to the research firm NPD Group. At peak levels iPods can hit volumes close to 115 decibels, research has found — a level that falls somewhere between a chainsaw and jackhammer — but all MP3 players pose an equal theoretical risk.

Further spurring worries about hearing loss was a blog posting a few weeks ago by Pete Townshend, the former guitarist for The Who. Mr. Townshend warned the iPod generation about the dangers of hearing damage, and said he blames his own severe hearing loss on years of using studio headphones. "Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be repaired," wrote Mr. Townshend. "If you use an iPod or anything like it, or your child uses one, you MAY be OK… But my intuition tells me there is terrible trouble ahead."

The posting generated a flurry of online chatter, including a debate on whether earbuds — the type of headphones that are tucked inside the ear — are more dangerous than more traditional ear-muff-style headphones. (Earbuds are a standard feature on many MP3 players, including iPods.)
There is little research supporting the notion that earbuds are more dangerous, but some researchers are nevertheless concerned. With speakers inserted into the ear "it takes much less sound to arrive at a sound level that could be potentially damaging," says Jerry Punch, a professor of audiology and speech sciences at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. "We're seeing folks in their early 20s with ears that look — audiometrically — like 50-year-olds' because they're exposing themselves to louder and louder levels of sound," he adds.

Some leading headphone manufacturers dismiss the notion that certain styles are more dangerous. "The thing that damages your hearing is prolonged exposure to excessive volume levels," says Christopher Lyons, manager of product marketing and retail support at Shure, an earphone manufacturer. "It's not related to the particular style of earphone." Most doctors agree that hearing loss has more to do with volume and exposure time than headphone style.

There are two ways that noise exposure leads to hearing damage. Brief exposures to extremely loud sounds, like gunfire, can cause permanent damage. But consistent exposure to even moderate-level loud sounds wears out the hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for acute hearing abilities. When these cells are damaged by noise exposure — like a loud concert — they typically recover after two days of rest. With repeated exposure to loud sounds, however, the hair cells' ability to recover weakens. Eventually the hair cells die, leading to permanent hearing loss.

A 2004 study at Children's Hospital Boston sought to set a safe exposure time for recreational listening by adapting the government standards for workplace noise. According to NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the safe exposure limit is 85 decibels for eight hours a day. (A typical vacuum cleaner emits 85 decibels.) Every time the volume level increases by three decibels, the safe exposure time drops by half.

The researchers determined that the exposure limit for safe headphone listening is one hour a day with the volume no higher than 60%. If you listen for more than an hour, you should turn the volume below 60%. Another informal rule of thumb: If you have to remove the headphones to hear people talking to you, it is too loud. The Boston researchers are currently doing additional studies of young adults' listening habits to learn more about what factors contribute to dangerous listening practices.

New sound-minimizing headsets for music players are rising in popularity. Etymotic Research says sales of its sound-isolating earphones tripled in 2005. Shure says sound-isolating headphones are the company's fastest-growing product category.

There are two distinct headphone styles that minimize background noise. Sony, Bose and Panasonic sell the more expensive "noise-canceling headphones." The battery-powered sets feature tiny microphones on each earpiece that detect ambient noise. The headset then generates sound waves that cancel out the ambient noise before it reaches your ear. A cheaper option is "sound-isolating" earphones, made by companies including Shure and Etymotic. These earphones, which typically cost $50 to $200, fit snugly in the ear and are made of sound-proof material that helps block out background noise.

Write to Jane Spencer at jane.spencer@wsj.com

Pete Townshend Warns iPod Users

January 4, 2006, LONDON, United Kingdom, Associated Press

Pete Townshend has warned iPod users they may face hearing problems if they don't turn down the volume.

Townshend, guitarist in '60s rock band The Who, said his hearing has been irreversibly damaged by years of using studio headphones and he must now take 36-hour breaks between recording sessions.

"Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be repaired," he said on his Web site. "If you use an iPod or anything like it, or your child uses one, you MAY be OK. ... But my intuition tells me there is terrible trouble ahead."

The Who were famous for their earsplitting live performances, but Townshend, 60, said his problem was caused by using earphones in the recording studio.

"I have unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type of music that makes its principal components deaf," he said.

Referring to the increasingly popular practice of downloading music from the Internet, Townshend said: "The downside may be that on our computers — for privacy, for respect to family and co-workers, and for convenience — we use earphones at almost every stage of interaction with sound."

www.petetownshend.co.uk

Ear bud' headphones can cause hearing loss, experts warn
By Lee Bowman, Associated Press, December 29, 2005

All those ears ringing from newly gifted iPods and MP3 players may not be able to hear next year's Christmas bells as well if music lovers aren't careful, hearing specialists are warning.

"We're seeing the kind of hearing loss in younger people that's typically found in aging adults,'' said Dean Garstecki, an audiologist and professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The big culprits aren't the devices themselves, but the tiny "ear bud'' style headphones that the music players use. "Unfortunately, the earbuds are even more likely to cause hearing loss than the muff-type earphones that were used on Walkman and portable CD players,'' Garstecki said.
In a study published last year in the journal Ear and Hearing, researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at a variety of headphones and found that, on average, the smaller they were, the higher their output levels at any given volume-control setting.

And other studies have shown that because the tiny phones inserted into the ears are not as efficient at blocking outside sounds as the cushioned headsets, users tend to crank up the volume to compensate.

"I have an audiologist friend at Wichita State University who actually pulls off earphones of students he sees and asks, in the interest of science, if he could measure the output of the signal going into their heads,'' Garstecki said. Often he finds students listening at 110 to 120 decibels.
"That's a sound level equivalent to measures that are made at rock concerts,'' said Garstecki. "And it's enough to cause hearing loss after only about an hour and 15 minutes.''

A study done by Australian researchers last summer found that about a quarter of iPod users between 18 and 54 years of age listened at volumes sufficient to cause hearing damage.

Moreover, having music players with longer-lasting batteries and more storage capacity encourages people with portable players to listen longer, not giving the ears a chance to recover.

Hearing advocates are pressing for people to turn down the volume. The rule of thumb suggested by researchers at Boston Children's Hospital is to hold the volume of a music player no higher than 60 percent of the maximum, and use it for only about an hour a day.

The National Hearing Conservation Association also recommends that parents try to find audio gear for their kids that have volume-limiting devices built-in.

"If music listeners are willing to turn the volume down further still and use different headphones, they can increase the amount of time that they can safely listen,'' Garstecki said.

iPod headphones may damage hearing
I heard that. Pardon.

By electricnews.net, December 20, 2005

Music lovers are being warned that the popular 'earbud' headphones worn by users of iPods and MP3 players could lead to hearing loss.
The warning comes from Dean Garstecki, a Northwestern University audiologist and professor, who said that because earbuds are placed directly into the ear, they can boost the sound signal by as much as six to nine decibels.

During the 1980s, when Walkman portable devices first hit the market, audiologists were warning users about potential hearing loss. Nowadays, with MP3 players topping the Christmas wish lists of people all over the world, history is repeating itself and Garstecki is urging safer use of earphones.

"We're seeing the kind of hearing loss in younger people typically found in aging adults. Unfortunately, the earbuds preferred by music listeners are even more likely to cause hearing loss than the muff-type earphones that were associated with the older devices," Garstecki said.

As well as a more intense sound signal, today's music devices have longer battery life and the ability to store vast amounts of music, facts which Garstecki says encourage users to listen for longer periods of time than their 1980s counterparts.

The audiologist claims that he has known students to listen to music at 110 to 120 decibels. "That's a sound level that's equivalent to the measures that are made at rock concerts," said Garstecki, "and it's enough to cause hearing loss after only about an hour and 15 minutes."

So what can we do? One solution Garstecki suggests is the 60 percent/60 minute rule, whereby people use their MP3 devices for no more than about an hour a day and at levels below 60 percent of maximum volume. "If music listeners are willing to turn the volume down further still and use different headphones, they can increase the amount of time that they can safely listen," Garstecki added.

Noise-cancelling headphones are another suggestion because they reduce or eliminate background noise. However, such headphones are often less popular with the fashion-conscious as they are much more visible than the tiny earbuds and often more expensive too.

iPod's Popular Earbuds: Hip Or Harmful?
Science Daily, December 16, 2005, source: Northwestern University

Turn ‘em down and turn ‘em off. That’s the advice of Dean Garstecki, a Northwestern University audiologist and professor, when it comes to using those ever-present earbuds favored by iPod and MP3 music listeners everywhere.

In the 1980s, audiologists began cautioning lovers of loud music about hearing loss that could potentially result from use of their Walkman or portable compact disc (CD) players when those devices were on the cutting edge of music listening. With iPods the hot holiday gift for music lovers of all ages, Garstecki is encouraging safer use of the popular music listening devices.

“We’re seeing the kind of hearing loss in younger people typically found in aging adults. Unfortunately, the earbuds preferred by music listeners are even more likely to cause hearing loss than the muff-type earphones that were associated with the older devices,” Garstecki said.

Not only are earbuds placed directly into the ear, they can boost the sound signal by as much as six to nine decibels. “That’s the difference in intensity between the sound made by a vacuum cleaner and the sound of a motorcycle engine,” said Garstecki, professor and chair in the Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

In addition to the more intense sound signal, today’s music listening devices — with their longer battery life and their capacity to hold and conveniently play lots of music — also encourage users to listen for longer periods of time than did the older portable devices. That, too, increases the potential for hearing damage, according to Garstecki.

“I have an audiologist friend at Witchita State University who actually pulls off earphones of students he sees and, in the interest of science, asks if he can measure the output of the signal going into their heads,” said Garstecki. He found that often students were listening at 110 to 120 decibels.
“That’s a sound level that’s equivalent to the measures that are made at rock concerts,” said Garstecki, chairman of Northwestern’s communication sciences and disorders department. “And it’s enough to cause hearing loss after only about an hour and 15 minutes.”

The solution, according to Garstecki, is the 60 percent/60 minute rule. He and other hearing specialists recommend using the MP3 devices, including iPods, for no more than about an hour a day and at levels below 60 percent of maximum volume. ”If music listeners are willing to turn the volume down further still and use different headphones, they can increase the amount of time that they can safely listen,” Garstecki added.
To avoid sustaining permanent hearing loss in the middle ranges —the range required to hear conversation in a noisy restaurant, for example — Garstecki recommends the use of older style, larger headphones that rest over the ear opening.

Another option is the use of noise-canceling headphones. “Unlike earbuds, noise-canceling headphones quiet or eliminate background noise. That means listeners don’t feel the need to crank up the volume so high as to damage their hearing,” Garstecki said.

“The problem is noise-canceling headphones are more costly and more visible than the tiny earbuds. For image-conscious teenagers and adults, they may be a hard sell.”

Play it loud, and you may pay for it
By Joel Selvin, Senior Pop Music Critic, San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, September 22, 2005

A warning to all about those earbuds. Digital devices reproduce music so cleanly, listeners are less likely to turn it down

Somebody grooving to the new Coldplay album on their new iPod or other personal listening device may not be thinking about hearing safety, but some medical experts are beginning to worry that the shiny little devices that have taken the music world by storm could pose some risks for hearing loss down the road, if they aren't used properly.

"People don't look into the sun to see if it damages their eyes," says Dr. Robert Sweetow, director of audiology at UCSF. "It continually amazes me that people don't realize if you blast your ears, you're going to hurt your ears."

Although there is no scientific data yet to support the contention, audiologists like Sweetow are concerned that the portable music players make it far too easy to listen to music for longer periods of time at an excessive volume through the trademark "earbuds" manufactured by Apple and other companies. With the earbuds — earphones inserted into the ear that come as standard equipment on portable music players — the sound is placed close to the eardrum, and the digital signal that delivers clean, clear sound at virtually any volume without distortion, personal listening devices can easily be played at unsafe levels.

The iPod manual contains a short warning about hearing loss ("If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce the volume or discontinue use of your iPod") and the company did remove the slogan "Play It Loud" recently from the Apple Web site. Company spokespeople did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story. The issue, however, is less about the devices themselves than about how they are used.

"There are three factors involved," says audiologist Douglas L. Beck, director of professional relations for hearing aid manufacturers Oticon Inc. "One is individual susceptibility and, two, how loud and, three, how long. You can listen forever at reasonable loudness. If it's too loud, it doesn't matter how long. It's a matter of loudness. If you can hear headphones two or three feet away, it's probably too loud."

"Loudness is perceived," says Kathy Peck, co-founder of the Bay Area organization HEAR (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers). "But because it's digital and there's no distortion, it can be turned up really loud."

"Any kind of personal listening device has that potential," says East Bay audiologist Dr. Mont Stong. "They all have volume you can crank up until it is detrimental. Car stereos can be played so loud you can hear them across the street."

The difference between a car stereo, say, and an earbud is that the latter is placed in the ear and that much closer to the tympanic membrane. And that's what worries some doctors.

"The closer you get to your eardrum, the less volume you need to hear because the sound has less distance to travel," Stong says. "That's part of the premise of a hearing aid, too, by the way. With headphones that go over your ear — instead of in — the potential is less traumatic because a lot of the volume is escaping out. With the earbuds, all the volume is in your ear canal. People might get the perception that it's louder, but I don't think they will."

When the Sony Walkman was introduced in the early '80s and launched the personal listening device revolution, little attention was paid to hearing safety. But the Walkman didn't really have the capacity for ear damage that the digital MP3 players do, Sweetow says. The analog sound of the little tape player would distort if turned up loud and the headphones were funky little foam rubber pieces that leaked sound everywhere, as opposed to the iPod's insert earphones. "The main difference between the Sony Walkman and the iPod is the headphone," Sweetow says.

Even with the sound piped directly into the ear canal, noise from the outside often competes with the music, and listeners turn it up louder. People listening to music while riding BART trains, for example, frequently increase the volume levels to drown out the sound of the commute.
"Ear plugs they're not," says HEAR's Peck, who has firsthand knowledge of how fragile a person's hearing can be: In 1988, she founded HEAR, an advocate group aimed at musicians and music listeners, with Dr. Flash Gordon of the Haight/Ashbury Free Medical Clinic after suffering hearing damage in 1984 during a performance at the Oakland Coliseum. She was the bass player in the San Francisco punk rock band the Contractions.

Another important factor is how long people are listening through their earbuds. "Moms are coming in with their young sons because they're listening to their iPods all the time," says Peck, whose organization offers hearing testing. "They don't hear their mothers when they talk to them. That could be just teenagers or it could be hearing damage from overuse."

According to federal government safety standards, workers should not be exposed to noise above 90 decibels for more than eight hours. For every five-decibel increase, the permissible exposure time is cut in half. Although the recommended safe duration for exposure to 120 decibels is seven and a half minutes, many rock concerts lasting longer than an hour reach and maintain that volume level. Some hearing care professionals feel that these permissible levels are still too high.

Consulting rooms are not filling up with patients complaining of "iPod ear" or anything like that. Any hearing damage from personal listening devices will spend years in the pipeline. Stong, who also designs hearing aids, says he is currently seeing middle-aged Baby Boomer patients with hearing loss he believes was sustained by attending overly loud rock concerts.

"Hearing loss is one of those things that is insidious," Sweetow says. "It comes on very slowly. If you're going to experience hearing loss from music, it always starts in the high frequencies, which are above the pitch of most conversations. Everybody knows when they've experienced a sudden hearing loss. You may not notice a gradual loss until it is too late."

Doctors also are concerned that those in the main personal-listening-device demographic are unlikely to take steps to protect their hearing. "The primary group using iPods is younger people and young people think they're invincible," Sweetow says. "With their youthful optimism, they don't worry about damage."

Researchers at the National Acoustics Laboratories in Sydney recently discovered some alarming information when surveying people listening to music on the streets of Melbourne and Sydney. The study showed that 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds listened to personal units for at least an hour every day and 42 per cent admitted that they thought they had the volume too high.

A study published in December by Boston Children's Hospital found that listening to a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of its potential volume for one hour a day is relatively safe. But personal listening device users can easily spend many hours daily hooked up to their earphones.

"The iPod is so convenient, so small, so inconspicuous and has such high-quality sound, it encourages people to walk around with it all the time," Sweetow says.

Sweetow, who once served as audiologist to the Grateful Dead, believes that a five-minute rest period for every hour of listening is a good idea. "Five minutes away an hour may not seem like a long time, but it has tremendous recovery benefits for your ears," he said.

Ears adjust to loud volume. Audiologists call this a "temporary threshold." According to Stong, anybody who has ever gotten back into their car and turned on the radio, only to have to turn down the volume from where they were listening previously has experienced a temporary threshold shift.

"It's when the temporary shift becomes permanent that you have hearing loss," Sweetow says.

"Hearing doesn't have any pain receptors," Stong says. "By the time you reach the pain threshold, the damage has already been done."

"Loudness is psychological," Sweetow says. "Intensity is physical. People are going to set the volume to the point where they have the loudness they want. But what is going to cause damage to the ears is the physical intensity. If you like the music, you will set it to a higher intensity level because you want it to be louder."

"Apple's responsibility is to make a good, high-quality device," Beck says. "People have to take responsibility for using it properly. It has to be used responsibly, just like anything you have in your house."

E-mail Joel Selvin at jselvin@sfchronicle.com.

MP3 Players Can Cause Hearing Loss
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR, New York Times, September 6, 2005

THE CLAIM

Need a reason to tear yourself from that sleek new MP3 player you can't put down? While most people covet the hours of nonstop music and the snug earpieces, those features, and others, are also the reasons the players may hurt your hearing.

The component that can have the greatest impact is the headphone. In a study published last year in the journal Ear and Hearing, Dr. Brian Fligor of Harvard Medical School looked at a variety of headphones and found that, on average, the smaller they were the higher their output levels at any given volume control setting.

Compared with larger headphones that cover the entire ear, some insertable headphones, like the white ones sold with iPods, increased sound levels by up to nine decibels. That may not seem like much, but because decibels are measured in logarithmic units, it can mean the difference between the noise output of an alarm clock (about 80 decibels) and that of a lawnmower (about 90 decibels).

The other problem, a second study found, is that insertable headphones are not as efficient at blocking background noise as some larger ones that cover the ear, so there is more incentive to turn up the volume.

To be sure, no one is certain what levels of noise the average MP3 listener is experiencing. But a large study of iPod users between 18 and 54 in Australia last month might provide some insight. The study, by the National Acoustic Laboratory in Sydney, found that about a quarter of the people surveyed kept their iPods at volumes that could cause long-term hearing damage.

THE BOTTOM LINE

MP3 players may increase the risk of hearing loss for some people.

Is it your iPod causing that ringing in your ears?
By Stephanie Peatlings, August 18, 2005, Sydney Morning Herald

Researchers are predicting increasing levels of tinnitus and other hearing problems among iPod users.

Research done by the National Acoustic Laboratories, to be released by the Australian Government today, has found up to a quarter of users of iPods and other portable music devices will suffer hearing problems because they are listening to their players at "excessive and damaging" levels.

The research also predicts rising levels of tinnitus - ringing in the ears - and loss of hearing because people can't maintain "responsible" listening habits.

The director of the National Acoustic Laboratories, Professor Harvey Dillon, said a quarter of the people surveyed outside Sydney's Town Hall and Melbourne's Flinders Street stations were listening to their iPods at volumes equivalent to small power tools.

"Either they are blocking out the noise around them or they want to hear to hear the music as clearly as possible," he said.

"If you're also going to a dance party or a disco or working in a factory, then as far as the ear is concerned it's all noise."

The researchers measured the volume of people's iPods and asked how long they spent listening to them.

A quarter of the people were found to be listening daily at a volume that exceeded the safety level at construction sites, which is 85 decibels. People talk at 65 decibels and a lawnmower is louder than 85 decibels.

About 20 per cent of Australians over the age of 15 already have some degree of hearing difficulties. Hearing problems are more likely to be experienced by people over the age of 50.

Professor Dillon said the damage caused by excessive iPod listening would not necessarily become apparent for several years but by then it would be too late.

Consistent exposure to loud noises is the most common cause of hearing damage.

"People need to either turn them down or not listen for as long," Professor Dillon said.

Australian Hearing, the largest provider of hearing services, provided more than 45,900 hearing services to people under the age of 21 last year.
The Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, said he expected Australian Hearing to become increasingly busy in coming years as a result of people turning up the volume.

"Hearing loss is already estimated to be the second-most-prevalent health condition in Australia," he said in the lead-up to today's launch of the report.

The MP3 Generation: At Risk for Hearing Loss?
By Tom Valeo, WebMD, Friday, August 26, 2005; reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Loud rock music contributed to hearing loss among baby boomers, but MP3 players are poised to make the problem much worse for the next generation.

These devices, which pump music through headphones directly into the ear canal, enable the user to overcome the rumble of the subway or the drone of an airplane engine without drawing angry shouts of "turn it down!"

As a result, they easily desensitize the user to dangerously high sound levels. A CD player and a Walkman do too, but MP3 players such as the iPod pose an additional danger.

Because they hold thousands of songs and can play for hours without recharging, users tend to listen continuously for hours at a time. They don't even have to stop to change a CD or a tape.
Baby Boomers Listen Up — Longer Listening, More Damage

Since damage to hearing caused by high volume is determined by its duration, continuous listening to an MP3 player, even at a seemingly reasonable level, can damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear that transmit sound impulses to the brain.

"Studies have shown that people exposed to 85 decibels for eight hours tend to develop hearing loss," Brian Fligor, ScD, of Children's Hospital in Boston, tells WebMD. He found that all the CD players he examined produced sound levels well in excess of 85 decibels.

"Every time you increase a sound level by three decibels, listening for half as long will produce the same amount of hearing loss. The kid who cuts my grass uses an iPod. The lawn mower noise is about 80 to 85 decibels. If he likes listening to his iPod 20 decibels above that, he's in the range of 100-105 decibels. At that sound level he shouldn't listen for more than eight to 15 minutes."

But if he's like millions of other iPod owners, the boy probably listens for several hours a day, placing a large noise burden on his hearing even if he turns it down when he's not cutting grass.

Put a Lid on It

Limiting the volume of MP3 players may seem like an obvious solution.

Devices, such as the Kid'sEarSaver, claim to reduce the sound output of listening devices, such as MP3 and CD players. Inventor Tom Metcalfe tells WebMD that Kid'sEarSaver reduces sound by more than 15 decibels.

"That's enough to give parents some peace of mind," says Metcalfe.

Also, France and other European countries have enacted laws that limit the volume of iPods and other devices to 100 decibels.
But Fligor believes such efforts produce a false sense of safety.

"Capping the volume focuses on the sound level, not the dose," he said. "If you set the cap at 100, that doesn't give you license to listen all day."
Besides, as soon as those European nations capped the sound level of iPods, web sites started providing detailed instructions on how to override that limit.

Treatment for Hearing Loss — Dealing With Denial

The simple fact is that young people like their music loud and seldom believe that hearing loss is a serious danger.

A recent study in Pediatrics reported that of the nearly 10,000 people who responded to a survey posted on the MTV web site, only 8 percent considered hearing loss "a very big problem."

That was below sexually transmitted diseases (50 percent), alcohol and drug use (47 percent) and even acne (18 percent). While 61percent said they had experienced ringing in their ears or other hearing problems after attending rock concerts, only 14 percent said they had used ear protection.

Even when they believe hearing loss is a danger, many young people still refuse to turn down the music.

Replacing Lost Hair Cells May Restore Hearing Music Dependency

"When I ask kids why they're not worried about hearing loss, they say they have faith that medical technology will find a way to restore their hearing," Deanna Meinke, chairwoman of the National Hearing Conservation Association's Task Force on Children and Hearing, tells WebMD.
Mary Florentine, an audiologist at Northeastern University, suspects that some young people actually have what she calls a loud music dependency disorder (LMDD).

"I asked people why they continued to expose themselves to loud music even though they knew it was harming their hearing, and they said they couldn't stop listening," says Florentine. "They said, 'When I stop listening I get sad and depressed, and then I go back to it because I can't take it after a while. I start listening again at moderate levels, but it doesn't do anything for me, so I start to listen at high levels.'"

In a study, Florentine and colleagues adapted a test normally used to identify alcohol dependency. For example, the question, "Do you feel you are a normal drinker?" became, "Do you feel you listen at normal levels?" Eight of the 90 participants who answered the 32 questions had scores in the same range as substance abusers.

Hearing Loss Goes Unnoticed

Denying the danger of noise-induced hearing loss would not be so easy if loud music made the ears bleed, but the early symptoms tend to come on gradually.

"People may notice that voices sound muffled, and that they have a reduced ability to follow a conversation in a noisy environment such as a restaurant or a party," Andy Vermiglio, CCC-A, FAAA, a research audiologist at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, tells WebMD.
"They might hear ringing in their ears. In its worst form, the ringing can get so loud that it interferes with sleep."

While a routine hearing test administered by a doctor can reveal mild hearing loss, the problem may become advanced before people realize they're having serious difficulty hearing.

Hearing loss, which becomes more common with age, is creeping farther down the age spectrum.

Kids With Old Ears

An article in the journal Pediatrics estimated that 12.5 percent of children aged 6 to 19 — about 5.2 million — have noise-induced hearing loss.
"Our own research shows that 16 percent of 6-to 19-year-olds have early signs of hearing loss at the range most readily damaged by loud sounds," says William Martin, PhD, of the Oregon Health and Science University Tinnitus Clinic in Portland.

Because adolescents are so resistant to warnings about loud music, Martin is trying to raise awareness among younger children. He is co-director of the Dangerous Decibels Project, which, in conjunction with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, has developed a program designed to train children, parents, and teachers about the threat of noise-induced hearing loss. It stresses the three most practical ways to deal with loud noise: turn it down, walk away, or protect your ears.

But education merely raises awareness of the problem. As with the epidemic of obesity among the young, hearing loss will end only when young people themselves recognize the dangers and change their behavior.

"People have to use personal stereo systems wisely or they will rapidly accelerate the aging of their ears," says Martin. "You can't toughen your ears by listening. Some people think you can. But if it's loud enough for long enough, you're going to cause permanent damage to your hearing."

Sources

Brian Fligor, ScD, director, Diagnostic Audiology, Children's Hospital, Boston; instructor, Harvard Medical School.
Chung, J. H. Pediatrics. April 2005; vol 115: pp 861-867.

Tom Metcalfe, founder, Kid's Ear Saver Co.

Deanna Meinke, chairwoman, National Hearing Conservation Association's Task Force on Children and Hearing; assistant professor of communication disorders, University of Northern Colorado.

Mary Florentine, Matthews Distinguished Professor of Audiology, Northeastern University, Boston. Florentine, M. Ear & Hearing. December 1998; vol 19: pp 420-428.

Andy Vermiglio, MA, CCC-A, FAAA, audiologist; senior research associate, House Ear Institute, Los Angeles.

William Martin, PhD, director, Oregon Health and Science University Tinnitus Clinic, Portland; co-director, Dangerous Decibels Project. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders web site.

Niskar, A.S. Pediatrics, July, 2001; vol 108: pp 40-43.

Say what? Headphones exacerbate hearing loss
USA Today, September 12, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Everywhere she turns, Angella Day sees people carrying portable music players, often with the ear buds stuffed firmly in place. "They're very widespread," says Day, a senior at Chicago's DePaul University who regularly listens to music on her own iPod while studying or working out. "So addicting."

What she and others may not realize is that many people their age have already damaged their hearing. And researchers fear that the growing popularity of portable music players and other items that attach directly to the ears — including cell phones — is only making it worse.
"It's a different level of use than we've seen in the past," says Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University in Indiana. "It's becoming more of a full-day listening experience, as opposed to just when you're jogging."

Increasingly, Novak says he's seeing too many young people with "older ears on younger bodies" — a trend that's been building since the portable Walkman made its debut a few decades back.

To document the trend, he and colleagues have been randomly examining students and found a disturbing and growing incidence of what is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Usually, it means they've lost the ability to hear higher frequencies, evidenced at times by mild ear-ringing or trouble following conversations in noisy situations.

Hearing specialists say they're also seeing more people in their 30s and 40s — many of them among the first Walkman users — who suffer from more pronounced tinnitus, an internal ringing or even the sound of whooshing or buzzing in the ears.

"It may be that we're seeing the tip of the iceberg now," says Dr. John Oghalai, director of The Hearing Center at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, who's treating more of this age group. "I would not be surprised if we start to see even more of this."

Noise-induced hearing loss happens any number of ways, from attending noisy concerts and clubs to using firearms or loud power tools and even recreational vehicles (snowmobiles and some motorcycles are among the offenders).

Today, doctors say many people also are wearing headphones, not just to enjoy music, but also to block out ambient noise on buses, trains or just the street. And all of it can contribute to hearing loss.

"The tricky part is that you don't know early on. It takes multiple exposures and sometimes years to find out," says Dr. Colin Driscoll, an otologist at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic.

One telltale sign that you've done damage to your ears is when you leave a loud venue with ringing ears. If you rest your ears, they might recover, at least partially, doctors say. But with repeated exposure comes more damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, which are key to good hearing.
With long-lasting rechargeable batteries, people who use portable music players also are listening longer — and not giving their ears a rest, says Deanna Meinke, an audiologist at the University of Northern Colorado who heads the National Hearing Conservation Association's task force on children and hearing.

Often, she says, people also turn up the volume to ear-damaging levels.

A survey published this summer by Australia's National Acoustic Laboratories found, for instance, that about 25% of people using portable stereos had daily noise exposures high enough to cause hearing damage. And further research by Britain's Royal National Institute for Deaf People determined that young people, ages 18 to 24, were more likely than other adults to exceed safe listening limits.

How much is too much?

Meinke says a good rule of thumb comes from a study published in December: Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital determined that listening to a portable music player with headphones at 60% of its potential volume for one hour a day is relatively safe.

Experts also recommend protecting hearing in other ways — standing away from loud speakers, for instance, and using hearing protection when using machinery at work, home or for recreation.

Day, the DePaul student, concedes that she's never thought to carry ear plugs with her, as Driscoll at Mayo Clinic and others suggest.
"So what if you gave them out at the door at the concert? Would people wear them more?" Driscoll asks. "I think some would."

To that end, professional musicians have formed Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR) to promote hearing protection. And Meinke's committee is developing a teacher kit with a meter to show dangerous levels of sound — something educators in Oregon also have demonstrated with a Web-based program called Dangerous Decibels.

"In the future," Meinke says, "I hope people will wear ear plugs the same as they wear their bike helmets or wear a seat belt."

Hearing Loss is on Rise — What Was That You Said?
By Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2005

The generation that mocked its elders with "If it's too loud, you're too old," is singing a different tune. Only they can hardly hear themselves.
Noise-induced hearing loss is escalating in the United States — and not just among senior citizens. Eighteen percent of baby boomers have hearing loss; meanwhile, 7.4 percent of Generation Xers have damaged ears, according to the Virginia-based Better Hearing Institute. Overall, most of those who say "what?" so often that there's clearly a problem (65 percent) are below retirement age.

Excessive noise is the leading culprit, and audiologists suspect that the problem is fueled by the proliferation of devices with amplified sound, namely cell phones and MP3 players, such as iPods, that send noise directly into the delicate ear canal.

"We're starting to see hearing loss in young adults that we expect to diagnose in middle-age adults," says Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University. Novak notes that many Americans, especially college students, have objects stuck to the side of their heads at all times. "Their ears have very little quiet time to recover from noise exposure," he says. "Often, listeners play music too loudly to drown out the background noise."

Sound is created when noise beats against the eardrum, and the vibrations stimulate nerves deep inside the ear. There, fine hair cells called cilia convert the vibrations into nerve impulses that are transmitted to the brain.

Over time, continued exposure to noise of 85 decibels or louder will destroy some of the fragile hair cells in the inner ear that respond to high pitches. One study of portable compact-disc players found that volume ranged from 91 to 121 decibels. Earphones that fit inside the ear increase the volume by 7 decibels to 9 decibels.

In Europe, iPods are legally capped at 100 decibels, but there is no U.S. limit on the volume of personal music devices.

In general, the louder the noise, the less time it takes to lose your hearing. The ears are designed to hear a whisper in a forest (30 decibels), but they end up dealing with a lawnmower (90 decibels), which can damage hearing after eight hours of exposure. Stereo headphones (set at 100 decibels) can harm ears in two hours, while a rock concert (120 decibels) wreaks havoc in just 71/2 minutes, according to the Sight and Hearing Association.

Concertgoers or construction workers are most familiar with a form of short-term hearing loss called temporary threshold shift. Symptoms include a buzzing or hissing noise, or the feeling that everything sounds as if it's underwater. Only noises above a certain level can be heard.
Normal hearing usually returns overnight, but the fragile hair cells have been damaged. If lengthy or repeated, the result is permanent hearing loss.

"It's wonderful to use personal-amplification systems, but check your genes," says Carol Rogin, senior director of the Better Hearing Institute. "Hearing loss that is age- or noise-related can run in families."

Rock musicians provide the most telling statistics. Sixty percent of the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are hearing-impaired, according to Self Help for Hard of Hearing People Inc.

From Earphones to Hearing Aids
By Chicago Tribune, August 21, 2005

The generation that mocked their elders with "If it's too loud, you're too old," is singing a different tune. Only they can hardly hear themselves. Noise-induced hearing loss is escalating in the United States - and not just among senior citizens. Eighteen percent of baby boomers have hearing loss; meanwhile, 7.4 percent of Generation Xers have damaged ears, according to the Virginia-based Better Hearing Institute.
Overall, most of those who say "What?" so often that there's clearly a problem (65 percent) are below retirement age.

Excessive noise is the leading culprit, and audiologists suspect that the problem is fueled by the proliferation of devices with amplified sound, namely cellphones and MP3 players, such as iPods, which send noise directly into the delicate ear canal.

Over time, continued exposure to noise of 85 decibels or louder will destroy some of the fragile hair cells in the inner ear that respond to high pitches. One study of portable compact disc players found that volume ranged from 91 to 121 decibels. Earphones that fit inside the ear increase the volume by 7 to 9 decibels.

In Europe, iPods are legally capped at 100 decibels, but there is no U.S. limit on the volume of personal music devices.

MP3 users hearing damage warning
From BBC News UK, August 18, 2005

The surge in sales of iPods and other portable music players in recent years could mean many more people will develop hearing loss, experts fear.

If the volume through headphones is too high, there is a real risk of permanent damage to hearing, they say.
Sydney's National Acoustic Laboratories found a quarter of personal music system users in a random sample listened to music at dangerous volumes.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf people urged awareness of the risks.

Millions now own MP3 players - Apple has sold more than 20 million iPods.

A recent study by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) found 39% of 18 to 24-year-olds listened to personal music players for at least an hour every day and 42% admitted they thought they had the volume too high.

The RNID regards 80 decibels as the level at which hearing is threatened - 20 less than a pneumatic drill.

Some MP3 players can reach 105 decibels. EU iPods have a sound limiter to comply with noise safety levels, however sometimes users hack through this in order to listen to it louder.

The RNID said it was possible that any rise in popularity of personal music players might lead to more cases of hearing loss in the future.

Too loud

A spokesman said: "RNID has been concerned for some time that many people are turning up the volume on their personal stereos to levels that could create hearing loss in the long term.

"This is precisely the case when attempting to drown out unpleasant noise from traffic and on the Tube."
Graham Frost, chairman of the British Society of Audiology, said the risk of damage increased with noise level and duration of use of personal music systems .

He said it could take months or years for that become apparent to the individual.

"Users are using them for longer periods because of the amount of material stored on them and because of convenience.
"If you use them for short periods and have breaks in between that is better than continuous use."

The first warning sign that volumes might be too high is a ringing or buzzing noise in the ears, says the RNID.
It is a sign the sound was loud enough to damage your ears, if exposure became frequent.

Protective filters for in-ear headphones are available from many high street stores and regular breaks should be taken from listening to personal stereos.

Apple was unavailable for comment.

RNID has a campaign urging people to be aware of the risks so they can continue to enjoy music for longer.

Don't Lose the Music Campaign recommends:

Take regular breaks from the dance floor in nightclubs and use club chill out areas to give ears a rest from loud music
Stand away from loud speakers when in clubs or at gigs and concerts
Wear ear plugs if regularly exposed to loud music, i.e. as a frequent clubber, DJ or musician

Blasting iPods potentially harmful to hearing
By Monica Labelle, Argus Leader, August 15, 2005

Kari Krolikowski takes her music everywhere on her iPod. She even plugs in the ear buds to fall asleep to tunes at night. "It doesn't really leave my side," the Sioux Falls 17-year-old says.

The advent of the iPod has given music lovers more opportunities to immerse themselves in their favorite sounds.

But ear buds on these and other portable music players are a cause of concern for some hearing experts. Others are quick to point out that anything loud can harm hearing, and iPods shouldn't be singled out.

"We probably haven't seen the effects yet of these portable music devices," says Dr. William Avery of Sioux Valley Clinic - Ear, Nose, and Throat.
He expects to see patients in the next 10 years have some hearing loss as a result of portable music players.

The most popular version is the iPod. More than 15 million have been sold since its 2001 introduction.

The iPod's buds - which fit into the ear - increase the amount of sound pressure directed into the ear canal, says Tom Powers, chief research officer with Siemens Hearing Instruments in New Jersey. Because they seal into the ear, there is less sound escaping than in traditional headphones, he says.

Loud sounds can permanently damage irreplaceable hair cells over time. These tiny cells in the ear send information to the brain. The longer one listens to high volumes, the more likely one will develop problems.

Of the 28 million Americans who experience some degree of hearing loss, one-third can attribute it at least partly to noise, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Besides hearing loss, ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, can result. Veteran rockers Pete Townshend of The Who and Ted Nugent suffer from this condition.

"We have already noticed that the baby boom generation has lost its hearing earlier than the previous generation, and we think that's because of much earlier and much more intense sound exposure," Avery said.

Young music fans should turn down the volume, experts say. But it might be difficult for them to hear an incentive to do so.

"Young people have such healthy ears that they are able to expose themselves to very loud sound, and they don't have the pain or discomfort that goes with it," Avery says. Only as they grow older will the negative effects of loud music likely become noticeable.

Krolikowski says she never listens to music at full volume on her iPod because the sound gets distorted. But when it comes to long-term prevention of hearing loss, "I don't really think about it," she says.

Dr. Colin Driscoll at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., advises music fans to turn up only the good songs and turn down the others. That gives ears a break.

Experts say if headphones can be heard by people other than the wearer, the music is probably too loud. It shouldn't be much louder than conversational speech, Avery says.

Loud music, of course, isn't the only sound to be wary of. Lawn mowers, subway stations and car horns also tend to have high decibel levels of 70 decibels or more. In comparison, a busy, noisy office is about 60 decibels.

"I guarantee you, people aren't going to lose their hearing so much from the iPod," Driscoll says. "It's because they shoot or hunt or work with power tools or heavy equipment and didn't wear ear protection."

Can your iPod cause you to go deaf?
By Mike Taibbi, NBC News, August 04, 2005

Stacey Tillett of Sherman Oaks, Calif. picked out a new iPod today, not worried now that it may be damaging to her hearing. "I like to listen to music loud, especially when I work out. I use it when I commute, and I use it when I don’t want to be bothered by people on the street," says Tillett.
But like all modern MP3 players, the device Stacey bought is an advance on the old technology that will allow him to listen longer and at higher volume than ever before — without ever having to change a tape or CD.

For Dr. Brian Fligor of Boston’s Children’s Hospital, there's an unquestionable connection between the new devices and hearing loss. "It’s a combination of how loud it is and for how long you listen. The two work together to determine your overall daily noise dose," says Fligor, who has been studying whether there is a link between the personal listening devices, long-life batteries, and earbuds instead of over-the-ear headphones and hearing loss.

Fligor says it just takes common sense to see the problem in a nutshell: Normal conversation registers about 60 decibels, a barking dog up to 70, while the subway is around 85 decibels — all in the safe zone. But the rock band at 120 decibels and your personal stereo system at up to 130 decibels could cause hearing loss if you listen too long.

In your car, and especially in your ear, Dr. Fligor says to be safe, you have to impose limits because the technology does not. If one imagines a volume scale of 1 to 10, Fligor says to keep it at level 6 for one hour or less per day.

Hard to do, say some users. And what about some songs that only sound right at the top volume?

"When I turn up all the volume, the music feels like it's kind of moving through your blood with you," says Tillett.

Hearing problems of middle age are affecting the younger generation
Newswise, August 01, 2005

Researchers from Purdue University say that cell phones and portable digital music systems are the reason why more and more young people are having hearing problems that are typical of the middle and old ages.

"We're starting to see hearing loss in young adults that we expect to diagnose in middle-aged adults," says Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology and associate department head. "This loss is often self-induced and may be related to young people's exposure to amplified sound and use of personal listening systems, such as cell phones and portable music devices, that students seem to be always using. The damage can be temporary or permanent."

In addition to hearing loss, too much noise exposure can result in hearing constant ringing, called tinnitus.

"People, especially young adults on a college campus, have something in their ears almost all the time as they walk from class, visit the library, work in the computer lab, drive in their cars and rest in their apartments," Novak says. "Their ears have very little quiet time to recover from noise exposure. Often, listeners play music too loudly to drown out the background noise in these environments. A healthier alternative is to find a truly quiet place to study and minimize the use of headphones coupled directly to the ear."

Novak says adults should ask themselves the following questions to determine if they should contact their hearing health-care provider for a hearing screening:

Do you frequently have to ask people to repeat themselves?
Do you have difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper?
Do people complain that you turn up the volume too much when watching television or listening to music?
Do you have difficulty following conversation in a noisy environment?
Do you avoid groups of people because of hearing difficulty?
Have your friends or family suggested you might have hearing loss?

Students with hearing loss also may struggle academically if a professor speaks quickly or with an accent, Novak says. Students who think they might be having hearing problems should sit in the front of the classroom or at least in a seat where they can see the instructor's face and minimize interference from other classroom noises.

"They should also let their instructors know what he or she can do to help them - things such as talking louder, using more visual aids, facing the class when talking," he says. "All larger classrooms should have speaker amplification systems installed, but they are often not in place or are not operational. If students suspect hearing loss, they should see an audiologist."

Mobiles could turn college kids deaf
From Asian News International, July 30, 2005

Purdue University audiologists have found that cell phones or portable digital music devices could lead to hearing loss among college-bound adults.

"We're starting to see hearing loss in young adults that we expect to diagnose in middle-aged adults. This loss is often self-induced and may be related to young people's exposure to amplified sound and use of personal listening systems, such as cell phones and portable music devices, that students seem to be always using. The damage can be temporary or permanent," lead researcher Robert Novak said.

"People, especially young adults on a college campus, have something in their ears almost all the time as they walk from class, visit the library, work in the computer lab, drive in their cars and rest in their apartments. Their ears have very little quiet time to recover from noise exposure. Often, listeners play music too loudly to drown out the background noise in these environments. A healthier alternative is to find a truly quiet place to study and minimize the use of headphones coupled directly to the ear," he added.


Digital music craze stores up ear trouble for iPod fanatics
By Richard Gray, Health Correspondent, RICHARD GRAY, rgray@scotlandonsunday.com, May 8, 2005

MUSIC fans have been warned to turn down or switch off their iPods amid fears the craze for MP3 players is storing up catastrophic and irreversible hearing damage for a generation.

The iPod — like all digital music players — is compact, stores huge amounts of music and can play for many hours. As a result, more people are listening for longer to their favourite tracks.

But audiologists believe tens of thousands of young people are causing serious damage to themselves, and are likely to suffer tinnitus and loss of hearing in later life. The experts say MP3 players should be designed to prevent people playing music above 90 decibels, about two-thirds of the maximum volume of a typical device.

Perhaps more worryingly for people who have 3,000 songs stored on an iPod, they also say listening should be restricted to no more than an hour a day.

The original Walkman played cassettes with a maximum duration of two hours, while portable CD players give up to 80 minutes a disc. A typical MP3 player, however, can store up to 300 hours of music and has batteries that last for 12 hours before needing to be recharged.
Volume controls on many of the machines can be cranked up to in excess of 100 decibels, equivalent to standing five metres from a pneumatic drill.

"It would obviously be beneficial to reduce the volume and restrict the usage of personal players," said Christine DePlacido, principal audiological scientist at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy. "The difficulty is in persuading people to do this before their hearing is damaged, as many believe hearing loss will not happen to them until they are much older.

DePlacido added: "A lot of the young people I see with tinnitus describe listening to music at high intensities. It would be hard to say how great this problem is, bearing in mind I only see people who are distressed by their tinnitus. I imagine there are a lot more people out there who are just living with it."

Tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair nerve cells that line the inner ear undergo repeated trauma from loud sound vibrations.

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) is so concerned about the damage being caused by MP3 players, it has issued advice on how to use them safely. Lisa McDonald, RNID campaigns officer, said: "Most people are listening to their iPods on public transport to drown out the noise of traffic, but to do this they turn them up to quite dangerous levels.

"For example the noise on the London tube is about 90 decibels which is already loud enough to cause damage with a long period of exposure.
"Because music is enjoyable people are much more willing to tolerate those levels of noise for much longer."

Research by London-based audio expert Tony Hale has revealed that general noise levels have soared threefold compared with 30 years ago.
He found the average street was 330% noisier than the countryside, with noise in busy city centres reaching 90 decibels.

Experts say people are having to turn up their MP3 players higher than was needed in the days of the Walkman in order to block out this clamour.
Dr John Irwin, an audiology surgeon at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, said: "The potential for damage exists because of the maximum output available from these devices. The process is a slow one rather than sudden, except in very unusual circumstances."

A survey by RNID in 2002 found just 46% of young people in Scotland knew loud music could irreversibly damage their ears. It estimates about 340,000 teenagers may be at risk of hearing damage due to listening to amplified music.

Research shows 39% of 18 to 24-year-olds listen to personal stereos for more than an hour each day, with 13% listening for two hours or more.
Many MP3 players in Europe have now had volume levels capped at 100dB after authorities in France ordered a clampdown on the devices.
No one from Apple, who make iPods, was available for comment.

MOVING WITH THE TIMES

The history of personal stereo systems dates back to the 1960s with the boom in portable AM band receivers. These battery-powered systems were sold by companies such as Panasonic, Toshiba and Olympus. But the invention of the Sony Walkman was an accident.

Changes at Sony in 1979 meant that the tape recorder division was pressed into inventing a new product or risk facing consolidation. They came up with a small cassette player capable of stereo playback.

The first models were marketed in the US as Sound-About and in the UK as the Stowaway.

The product proved popular in Japan and hit the US in 1980. By the spring of 1981, at least two dozen companies were selling similar devices and by 1983 everyone wanted a one. Three years later the word Walkman entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

The end for Walkman came in 1986 when Sony announced the D-50, a portable audio device that could play the "perfect" sound compact discs. They called it the Discman.

Then in November 2001 Apple blew the competition out of the water with its new digital invention, the iPod. No larger than a cassette box, it could hold up to 10,000 songs.