Earbuds and Your Hearing

Not to focus too much on health issues, but the NY Times ran a cautionary piece by Jane Brody on Tuesday (All That Noise Is Damaging Children’s Hearing) that bears reading for anybody who relies on their ears for their livelihood. Turns out that there’s an epidemic brewing in hearing loss among kids who are spending more and more time with ipods and other devices that pipe sound directly into the ear.

Tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ear) and hearing loss are incurable. Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for life, and it only gets worse with time.

I listen to an ipod a lot. But lately, I’ve been turning it down as much as possible and finding that I can hear just fine at lower volume levels.

We’re all involved in a giant beta test of these and other new devices. Buyer beware.

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10 Comments on “Earbuds and Your Hearing”

  1. Judith Allen Says:

    I stopped using my mp3 player so much after noticing some buzzing at night for the first time. The main difficulty is that I usually want to use it in loud environments – on the London Underground, a train…. Turning it down makes it inaudible without spending a whole load of cash on expensive headphones to reduce ambient sound, and I’m not even sure how effective those are.

  2. Steve Says:

    Judging from my experience on the NY subways, where you can often hear other people’s ipods from 15 feet away (I kid you not), you made the right choice. Those kids are going to be wearing hearing aids sooner than they think

  3. Judith Allen Says:

    The trend these days seems to be to play music on the speaker of a mobile phone, often singing along. Not so bad for hearing, less good for anyone in the same carriage. Though we also get the iPod headphones which can be heard for 15 feet.

  4. Frank Reynolds Says:

    Not to sound dismissive, but wasn’t there a lot of similar talk back in the 80s when the Walkman started becoming popular? Is there a difference of the threat of hearing loss between then and now?

  5. Steve Says:

    Good point. But there really does seem to be an epidemic of hearing problems in the young. And I know plenty of older people with hearing loss and tinnitus. Also, my old Walkman had earphones that sat over the ear with foam cushions that let you hear ambient noise. Earbuds are a later innovation, and because they pipe sound is so directly might be worse.

    In general, it’s another case of buyer beware. We all tend to implicitly believe that with so many people using something, it couldn’t be all that dangerous. These days, nobody is going to protect you except you.

  6. Scott Says:

    iTunes has a feature called Sound Check. You can set it to compress everything, so that the loud passages and quiet passages are evened out. Then, and this is the most important point, you can put a limiter on your iPod, as I have for my 10-year old. No matter how hard she tries, it can only get so loud. I still have great hearing at 51, and I often wear industrial-grade earplugs while on set.

  7. Steven Major Says:

    Hey, you have a great blog here! I’m definitely going to bookmark you! Thank you for your info. And this is **Tinnitus** blog. It pretty much covers Tinnitus related stuff.

  8. Ben Says:

    Never knew they had a term for the ringing. I was actually diagnosis with a hear loss at a young age, and before MP3 or walkman . With a hearing loss at a young age I best as described as constant ringing. My wife tells me to limit wearing earbuds to prevent it from getting worse, but at this point i rather enjoy music before i get older and then lose more of my hearing.
    It’s a shame young kids are damaging their hear by choice, going through life with a hearing loss is very tough. BTW, hearing aids doesn’t always work for some. I had 2 when i was younger and made my ears ring even worse.

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