Hearing Loss Related to MP3 & iPod Usage
How often do you listen to music? How often do you use ear phones/buds in order to listen to your music?
Did you know that incorrect usage of ear buds can lead to hearing loss even at an early age? While listening to music on iPods allows us to relax and reduce stress, it can also cause hearing damage unless used properly.
According to the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from loss of hearing as a result of using ear phones/buds turned to a high volume.
Young people are actually vulnerable to hearing loss due to their excessive use of listening at overly high volumes.
Portable music players have been around for decades, so why are hearing problems cropping up now? The answer lies in the sheer number of songs iPods and MP3 players can hold.
Older portable music players (such as the Sony Walkman) could only hold one CD or cassette at a time, so people listened for a shorter time.
However, nanotechnology in MP3 players allows us to easily store thousands of songs, so we are more prone to listening for longer periods of time, which can lead to more ear abuse.
Also, the ear buds common on MP3 players deliver the sound directly into the ear canal, eliminating other sounds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being exposed to more than 85 decibels (about the level that teens listen to their music today) of sound for eight hours can damage your hearing.
Loss of hearing is gradual, and usually begins with the high frequencies. If your hearing loss becomes serious enough, you may risk impairing your ability to speak clearly.
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Do You Have Hearing Loss?
So how do you know if you have damaged your ears with your music? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing hearing damage.
- Are you hearing people's voices less clearly?
- Are you frequently asking people to repeat themselves?
- Does your family ask you to turn down the television because it is too loud, but you hear it at a normal level?
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Preventing Hearing Loss
By following these simple steps, you can enjoy listening to music while avoiding harmful listening habits that can lead to permanent hearing loss:
- Switch to headphones: While listening too loudly and for extended periods of time is bad for your health, headphones better isolate the background noise, thus enabling you to listen at a lower volume.
Compared to ear buds, headphones put the source of sound farther away from your inner ears. This extra space can protect your eardrums from the strain of listening to direct noise.
- Listen at volumes lower than 85 decibels because anything higher can cause damage. 85 decibels is roughly the sound of city traffic heard from inside a car.
- Take a break; listening to music for extended periods of time can impair your hearing.
- Try the 60/60 rule: Never turn your volume past 60 percent and only listen to music with ear buds for a maximum of 60 minutes per day.
- Be careful not to fall asleep while listening to music, especially if you are wearing ear buds. Your iPod can't tell if you are actually listening to the song or not, but if you have music playing in your ears for hours at a time, you are putting yourself at risk of permanently damaging your ears.
- Some people need "white noise" to fall sleep. If you need to listen to music to fall sleep, put together a playlist of soft songs (like classical piano) and have it play at a low volume from a speaker on your bedside table.
Don't forget to use your clock's "sleep" function, which will automatically turn off your music after a set amount of time to ensure the music doesn't end up playing all night long. It saves energy – and your ears.
- Lower the maximum volume setting on your iPod. To do this, go to "Settings" and select "Volume Limit" under Music. Set it at about 60% of the full volume, that way you can't accidentally turn your music too high.
- Remember that higher pitched sounds have greater potential to damage your ears than lower pitched sounds. Consider turning down the volume when a high-pitched song comes on.
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high school writers
Sabrina Lui, high school writers
teen writer (July 2011)
teen writer (July 2013)
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For More Information:
See our Hearing Impairments article.
See our Living with Disabilities article.