Yes, you could go deaf

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am

Study shows teenagers believe their ears are invincible to loud music

Teenagers seem to know loud music can damage their hearing, yet most see no reason to lower the volume on their iPods, a small study suggests.

In focus-group discussions with students at two high schools in the Netherlands, researchers found the teens were generally aware that blasting an MP3 player could harm their hearing. Yet most said they usually played their own device at maximum volume and had no plans to change that.

Like many teenagers, the students often denied their own personal risk. Most knew the general hazards of loud music, but believed they had a 'low personal vulnerability' to hearing loss, the researchers report in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Given this, lead researcher Ineke Vogel said: 'We strongly recommend parents inform their children and discuss with their children the use of MP3 players and the potential long- term, irreversible consequences for hearing capacity.'

Parents can also look for signs of a problem, like when a child complains of ringing in the ears or sounds being 'muffled', according to co-researcher Hein Raat.

Both researchers are based at the University Medical Centre Rotterdam.

Based on the focus-group discussions, many parents may be unaware of the hearing risks posed by MP3 players, the researchers note. Of the 73 students in the study, few said their parents had warned them playing the devices too loud could harm their hearing.

It may also be necessary for MP3 manufacturers to make changes, the researchers note in their report.

Many students in the study said they did not know how to tell when their MP3 players were too loud.

Volumes at or above 90 decibels (dB) are believed to be hazardous, the research team notes, but noise levels need to reach 120 dB to 140 dB to become uncomfortable or painful.

Manufacturers, according to the researchers, could equip MP3 players with an indicator that displays the volume level in terms of decibels, along with a signal - such as a flashing light - that goes off when decibel levels reach the danger zone.

For now, the team recommends that, as a general 'rule of thumb', MP3 users set the volume no higher than 60 per cent of its full capacity when using 'ear bud' style headphones, like those that come with iPods.

With over-the-ear headphones, they recommend 70 per cent as the maximum.

The researchers also suggest that more wide-range studies are needed to develop safety guidelines for 'leisure-time' noise exposure, just as there are guidelines for occupational noise exposure.