Portable music devices threaten hearing

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 17th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Music lovers and fans of the MP3 player, listen up! Audiologists are voicing concern that the portable music devices could pose a serious threat to your hearing.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recently tested several MP3 players, including the popular iPod, and discovered that all the devices could produce sound well above the maximum safety level of eighty-five decibels. In fact, the MP3 players the association tested had an upper range of more than one-hundred-and-twenty decibels, equivalent to the ear-pounding noise of a chainsaw.

More than ten million Americans suffer from noise-induced hearing loss caused by prolonged exposure to all manner of sound in workplace or recreational environments. But experts warn that the unique features of the MP3 player, which also contribute to its popularity, place users at particular risk.

Because MP3 players can hold thousands of sounds and can play for long periods without recharging, users are able to listen for hours without having to stop to change a CD or tape. Also, MP3 players come with ear buds, which slip inside the ear canal, but are not effective at reducing background noise. As a result, listeners tend to turn up the volume in an effort to drown out unwanted sounds.

A few simple precautions can lessen your risk of hearing loss and allow you to continue jamming away with your MP3 player. Limit your listening time, keep the volume down and switch to sound-isolating head phones that block out other noise, without the need to turn up the volume.