iPods and MP3 players are such a double-edged sword for me. I love that music is everywhere, and a big enough part of people's lives that it's the first thing many think about setting up when they leave home or work. But the flip side is how the players and particularly earbud speakers are hurting hearing.
A report by the European Union last week said what any knows who has sat near someone with blaring earphones, that loud music on iPods could cause hearing loss. An AP story on it said that "that between 2.5 million and 10 million Europeans could suffer hearing loss from listening to MP3 players at unsafe volumes — over 89 decibels — for more an hour daily for at least five years.
It's especially a problem when young people are jacking up the volume of music already with intense frequencies.
In the AP report, EU spokeswoman Helen Kearns said, "It's damage that may come back and haunt you later in life," and said she will try to get MP3 players held to a limit of 100 decibels. The article also said that "Apple was forced to pull its iPod player from store shelves in France and upgrade software on the device to limit sound to 100 decibels."
You know it's bad when the listening to music gets lumped in with rules designed to limit noise at construction sites and factories!
But two American groups have joined together to increase awareness of decreasing volume: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Parents' Choice Foundation have created a national coalition of musicians, "to promote safe usage of personal audio technology." It's called Listen To Your Buds - and Protect Kids' Hearing.
Who knows how effective it will be, but it is good to see it, especially since "More than half of high school students in the
The ASHA is offering a few steps to protecting hearing:
1. Keep the volume down. A good guide is half volume.
2. Limit listening time. Give your hearing "quiet breaks."
3. Upgrade your earbuds, which sit inside the ear, and frequently come with the purchase of a portable music player, to earphones that fit outside the ear and block out unwanted sound (also known as "noise canceling" earphones). You can also upgrade to earphones that fit snugly into the ear canal and do the same thing.
Unfortunately, it's an issue that runs up against coolness, which means some teens and twenty-somethings will hurt there ears just because its is what everyone else is doing. But it's really just common sense, and I hope more people will turn their machine down. I hate to think of people not being able to hear music down the road (or other subtle sounds of life, for that matter).
Finally: There is a difference between loving volume and loving music. If you really love music, you'll want to hang on to those eardrums...if I can year your music sitting next to you, it's too loud for you.