It’s no secret that MP3 use has skyrocketed in the last 15 years. It’s perfectly common to see someone listening to their MP3 player while out for a jog, on the subway or while exercising in the gym. In particular, teenagers and young adults seem to always be attached to the MP3 players – and specifically, to the earphones that are attached to them.
This constant use of MP3 would appear to place a heavy burden on the ears. In fact, it would be very easy to draw the conclusion that frequent earphone use could do long term damage to your hearing. The fact that many MP3 users play their music at unnecessarily loud levels – to the point that those nearby can clearly hear the song being played – seems to lend credence to this theory.
The issue of earphone usage among younger individuals has caught the attention of several prominent researchers. A number of studies have sought to explore this topic, seeking to determine if there is a conclusive link between hearing loss and extended earphone use. The results of some of these studies may be cause for alarm.
What the Studies Say
A 2010 report, spearheaded by researchers at the University of Vanderbilt, unearthed some startling evidence of hearing loss among teenagers. According to the Vanderbilt study, an estimated 20 percent of Americans aged 12 to 19 suffered from hearing loss. This figure represents a 5 percent increase since 1995. The report was published in the prestigious Journal of American Medical Association, adding further credibility to the report’s findings. The notion that teenagers and young adults listen to music at loud volumes seems to be grounded in fact. A separate study, conducted by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, found that teenagers tend to listen to MP3 players at a louder volume than older participants.
According to Kristina Rigsby, a pediatric audiologist at Vanderbilt University, significant hearing loss can occur by listening to music at loud levels. Rigsby notes that the danger zone for earphone volume begins at the 80 decibel mark, as listening to music above this level for extended periods of time can damage a person’s long-term hearing ability. This damage occurs when the hairs cells within the ear begin to wither and die, as they no longer receive badly needed blood and oxygen.
Vanderbilt University and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association aren’t the only organizations warning about the risks of earphones. The Journal of Pediatrics reported that one-eighth of people between the ages of 6 and 19 – some 12.5% of children in the United States – suffer from hearing loss as a direct result of earphone usage. The issue is not fully settled; some studies maintain that excessive earphone use has little, if any, effect on human hearing. Despite the conflicting research, there remains good reason to be concerned about the potential effects of earphones on your hearing.
Tips for Maintaining Good Hearing
Though some evidence indicates that earphones may pose a significant risk to your health, you don’t have to throw away your MP3 player to preserve your hearing. By adjusting the way you use your MP3 player, you can prevent hearing damage while still enjoying your favorite songs.
- Switch from earphones to headphones. This might seem like a minor difference, but it’s not. Headphones tend to isolate background noise better than earphones, resulting in less pressure on your ears.
- Tone down the loud music. This is an easy one. It might be tempting to blast your MP3 player as loud as possible, but you might wind up diminishing your hearing capacity. If you’re not sure about what volume level is safe for your ears, try following the 60/60 rule. This rule forbids MP3 users from turning up their device’s volume past 60 percent of its maximum amount. The second “60” refers to the length of time you listen to your earphones, as the 60/60 rule places a 60 minute time limit on earphone use. If you can’t pinpoint the 60% mark on your volume meter, than adjust your volume to half its maximum level.
- Seek the input of others. As mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon to hear music blasting from someone’s earphones. If others around you are able to hear your music from three feet away or less, then your volume level is simply too loud.
The proceeding article was written by an employee of Natural Knowledge 24/7.