Not Music to Your Ears

Cranked-up iPods could bring hearing loss, experts warn

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FRIDAY, Jan. 13, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The ubiquitous iPod could be a hip new route to permanent hearing loss, experts warn.

"As you pass some of these young people, you can actually hear the music radiating from under those little headphones," Paul R. Kileny, director of audiology at the University of Michigan's department of otolaryngology, said in a prepared statement. "That is a sure sign that the individual listening to that music is listening at a level that is too loud and, therefore, in the long run is risky to the status of their hearing."

How loud is too loud? According to Kileny, too loud is when listeners crank up the volume so high they can't hear surrounding conversations, or when bystanders can hear the music emanating from the tiny earbuds or headphones.

"These portable devices are not inherently harmful to hearing because of the way they are coupled to the ear, but there are certainly safe levels at which one can listen to them," the U-M researcher said. "My recommendation is to listen at such a level that one can still hear conversation, and other people in their environment do not accuse them of shouting when they attempt to converse."

He noted that he and other doctors are seeing more and more young people with noise-induced hearing loss.

Safety controls might spare young ears, he added.

"With these personal audio players, there are no built-in electronic safety cut-offs or safety devices that preclude listening at a dangerous level or that at least inform the wearer that he or she has reached a level which might be risky to hearing. It's very simple technology that could be built into these devices," Kileny said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about noise-induced hearing loss.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Jan. 3, 2006

Robert Preidt

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