iPods and MP3 Players

Lady listening to music on headphonesiPods and MP3 players are a popular holiday gift. Forty percent of Canadian households own at least one iPod or mp3 player. When iPod was introduced in October 2001, Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, said, with iPod, listening to music will never be the same again. I think he was right.

How often do you see someone walking down the street, running in the park, or walking in the mall with wires hanging from their ears? A study done by the NPD Group (2006) surveyed 6405 people. They reported that of kids between the ages of 6-12, 30% had a personal listening device (PLD) and wore it for an average of 5 hours per week. Sixty percent of teens, ages 13-17, own a PLD and use them for an average of 8 hours per week. Twenty-four percent of adults own PLDs and use them for an average of 7 hours per week. People are spending a lot of time listening to their music.

Is listening to music through an iPod or mp3 player dangerous? Noise induced hearing loss is the result of exposure to loud noise over prolonged periods of time. If music is sufficiently loud, it can also damage your hearing. If you are exposed to loud music over an extended period of time, hearing loss will result. With PLDs having increased battery life and the potential to store thousands of songs, people have the ability to listen to their music longer. The potential to induce permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss exists!

A study completed for the European Union (2008) by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks found that individuals who listened to the PLDs for more than five hours a week at high volumes had been exposed to more noise than is permitted in a factory or workplace. They also reported that listening to PLDs at high volume settings may not result in an immediate change in hearing but is likely to show an impact later in life.

It is important to be aware of the volume of your PLD as well as the volume of the outside sounds around you. In quiet situations you may not be listening at a dangerous volume, however if you are using your PLD in noisy situations you may be increasing the volume more than you think. Most often PLDs are being used in noisy situations such as in work out facilities, cutting grass, riding on the bus, etc. The level of outside noise can vary with these activities. The louder the extraneous noise the louder we tend to turn our PLDs in order to hear the music.

What can you do to prevent permanent hearing damage from PLDs? 1. Keep the volume down. A good guide is half volume. 2. Limit listening time. 3. Upgrade your ear buds, which sit inside the ear, to earphones that fit outside the ear and block out unwanted sound. You can also upgrade to earphones that fit snugly into the ear canal and do the same thing.

Two websites that provide a good source of information about 'Saving your hearing for the music' are www.soundsense.ca and www.listentoyourbuds.com. Enjoy your music, but turn it down!

Submitted by Barb Bentley, Bentley Hearing Services

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