In the 50s people said Rock and Roll was evil and they may have been right! There are raised worries about hearing loss in young people. This is due to their increased use of Mp3 players at high volume.
Young people are more likely to play music louder and for longer periods of time. Research shows that 76% of people listen to music at levels above 85 decibels. Exposure to noise of over 80 decibels can cause permanent damage to your hearing. This is classed as noise induced hearing loss, which is different from the deafness that can occur naturally in old age. If your hearing is affected at work you can make a hearing loss claim for compensation but most young people have nowhere to turn as they are damaging their own hearing.
There have been personal music players since the 80s but Mp3 players pose a higher risk. Walkmans and portable CD players before could pose some threat but they could only be used for short periods of time due to battery life and limited amount of music to play. Mp3 players can last for hours with 1000s of songs saved, allowing people to listen to music more, increasing their exposure.
Duration has a big impact on hearing loss. Music listened at a perceivably sensible level for extended periods of time can cause hearing loss. Only 5 hours per week at high settings can do more damage than most noisy workplaces. This means that an Mp3 player can be more damaging than Occupational Deafness.
Here is a guideline on the levels and duration advisable to not exceed each day
90 dB - 8 hours
92 dB - 6 hours
95 dB - 4 hours
97 dB - 3 hours
100 dB - 2 hours
105 dB - 1 hours
110 dB - 0.5 hours
115 dB - 0.25 hours
Every time you increase a sound level by 3 dB, listening for half as long will produce the same amount of hearing loss. This is worrying when you think that the maximum volume on some players can be as loud as a nearby plane taking off. There are people listening to their iPod at over 100 dB for hours a day and this is causing damage.
Hearing loss isn't reserved to the elderly, contrary to what most young people think. Research shows that young people believe that Mp3 players won't damage their hearing and if it does there will be remedies to fix it. Depending on the volume and period, using an Mp3 can cause hearing loss in early life or can lead to an increased risk of developing hearing loss later in life. Is this down to poor education and lack of warnings?
Should manufacturers put warnings on their products like smoking?
This maybe an extreme question but clearly young people need some form of warning as they are not aware of the risks. There are people now who's hearing has been permanently damaged due to listening to music too loud and or for too long. Such is the case that in 2006 a man claimed for hearing loss compensation from Apple, claiming that the corporation neglected to take satisfactory steps to prevent hearing loss for iPod users. The compensation case claimed that the iPod can produce levels of up to 110 dB but the safe level is 85 dB. Apple do have a warning in their user manual but no volume levels are mentioned just 'high volume'.
Companies such as Apple surely have to give more information than this and not just hide it away at the back of a user manual that people rarely read from cover to cover.
Hopefully soon manufacturers will be obliged by law to use these warnings. Some governments are taking action against hearing loss, with several European countries bringing in laws that limit the volume of iPods and other players to 100 dB. This is a good start but without education, users will find ways round this.
There are ways to use Mp3 players safely. One argument for playing them loud is to be able to hear your music over background noise. In-ear filters should be used, these cancel out background noise and reduce the volume needed for the music to be clearly heard. These are a simple design, the outer layer bud blocks unwanted sound out and the inner part of the earphone then delivers the music. There are also sound-isolating earphones that reduce the ambient noise outside of the listeners ear again decreasing the need to turn the volume up. These are a more high-tech solution and require a separate power source.
Ultimately the safest way is to listen to music less!
This is an optimistic view as it is clear that people are going to continue to regularly listen to music through Mp3 players. With the amount of music available on these players people should be able to listen to their music without the risk of hearing loss. The manufacturers do need to take more action in warning of the risks of listening to loud music but we also need to take some responsibility. There are many measures we can take including reducing the volume and using filtered ear phones. Using these will allow us to play music at safe levels for reasonable periods in the day. Possibly manufacturers should supply these with the Mp3 players as standard.
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