MP3 Players and iPod Increases Risk for Early Hearing Loss in Teens

Portable MP3 players or iPods are becoming ubiquitous gadgets of our modern lifestyle, especially in teenagers. Listening to luculent music at high volume for hours can be exhilarating for listeners. It makes it easy for people to enjoy  music anywhere such as on a bike, in a car or school bus.  Simply put, people just have to put the ear buds in and they’re on their way to musical bliss…

[box type=”note”]However, these thrilling music player devices can turn into a serious health hazard by causing significant hearing loss at early age, according to a new study. For those such as teenagers who use these devices the most, it’s an even more serious matter. [/box]

According to the study results published in the International Journal of Audiology, such listening habits at high volume for prolonged period can directly endanger early hearing loss in one out of four teens.  This study clearly demonstrates that teenagers have very bad music-listening habits regarding iPods, iPhones, and other MP3 devices.

Prof. Chava Muchnik of TAU’s Department of Communication Disorders in the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine said:

“In 10 or 20 years it will be too late to realize that an entire generation of young people is suffering from hearing problems much earlier than expected from natural aging.”

Tel Aviv University researchers studied teens’ music listening habits based on self-report questionnaires and acoustic measurements of preferred listening levels in quiet and everyday background noise.

During the first stage of study, researchers enrolled 289 participants aged between 13 to 17 years. They were interviewed on PLDs questionnaires specifically about favoured listening levels and the duration of listening. In the second stage of study, researchers measured acoustic listening levels on 11 teens in quiet and 74 teens in noisy environments. Based upon damage risk criteria laid out by industrial health and safety regulations, the measured volume levels were used to figure out the possible hearing loss risk.

Distressing Study Findings

Eighty percent of teens enjoy PLDs regularly; out of them 21 percent listen for one to four hours everyday and almost eight percent listen for more than four hours sequentially. Collective data of such listening habits and the acoustic measurement results suggest that more than 25 percent participants in noisy condition are in danger for hearing loss based on occupational risk criteria suggested by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Maximum decibel levels offered by PLDs depend on type of model and some can emit the sound up to 129 decibels. Uninterrupted exposure to such high volume causes slow and progressive hearing damage .Hence people are unaware of the hearing impairment till years of collected harm begin to take place. Teens misusing MP3 players today may suffer from hearing problems in their 30’s and 40’s, which is much before compared to previous generations.

Precautionary Measures for Avoiding PLDs Induced Hearing Loss:

Researcher’s stress the importance on a substantial necessity of extra music risk measures for preventing music-induced hearing loss. They emphasise on following the European standards while manufacturing PLDs that set the output limit to 100 decibels. Parents and schools must guide their teens about proper use of PLDs and create awareness of hearing health by conducting program like “Dangerous Decibels” in Oregon schools to provide information about hearing conservation. Preferably, teens should select headphones rather than ear buds that are usually provided with an iPod.

Development of advanced technological solutions for safer use of PLDs is also neeeded.



Dr. Minakshi Welukar

I am Pune based medical doctor (M.B.B.S) and certified medical writer from InfocusRx, Hyderabad, working as a family physician and freelance medical writer for health magazines and websites. Five years of clinical experience faced me to handle variety of patients to get best possible results, keep up-to-date knowledge about new medicinal advances and build-up medical specialist and social contacts.

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