Hearing loss accompanying digital music players

Wednesday, January 9th 2008, 8:41 pm
By: News 9

By Audrey Esther, News9.com INsite Team

Portable music players, such as iPods, have made a huge impact on the way many people listen to music. But how much of an impact can those devices have on your health?

They're a necessity for most gym-goers.

"I always listen to the iPod," Cara Blankenship said. "I definitely have to have a fast beat so I can get motivated to work out a little faster."

Chances are either you or someone you know has a portable music device, but doctors warn  those devices might be a direct cause of hearing loss.

According to ear experts, any sound above 90 decibels may cause hearing loss, a normal conversation is around 50 decibels, but most MP3 players can reach 120.

"I try as much as possible to keep the volume down," Emmanuel Macraege said.

It's not easy to measure the decibel level of your music, but there are a few simple ways to tell if the volume is too high, doctors say.

"It's too loud if the person next to you is listening to the music right along with you," Dr. Justin Sparkes said.

In addition, your music might be too loud if the volume is more than 60 percent of the max, you can't hear conversations around you or you shout instead of talk to people nearby.

"Lots of times the hearing loss is permanent," Sparkes said. "Once you lose it, you will only get a portion of it back."

"You see it in ages 5 to 65 and everybody has an iPod or MP3 player, and people need to be aware of the effects that having the volume up too high," Blankenship said. "Even if you're young and careless, it can affect you later in life."

A simple hearing test can determine if you've done any permanent damage. Experts also suggest using noise canceling earphones.