News & Success Stories


News // September 03, 2014

Unsound Sound: Is your MP3 Player or iPod impacting your hearing?

There is no question that music is a big part of many people’s lives. Whether for motivation, relaxation, entertainment, work or play, it is an “instrumental” part of society. Although music has been around for centuries, the way we listen to it has changed dramatically in recent years. Unfortunately, some of these changes can permanently damage our hearing.

The development and use of MP3 players, iPods, cellphones and even computers with headphones has allowed us to listen to music easily and without interruption. What may have been considered weekly exposure in the past is now considered daily exposure for many people. In addition to uninterrupted listening, many of these devices can produce sound up to 115 decibels (db) or more at the source (your ear). That’s the equivalent of the noise level at a rock concert! For comparison, normal conversation is about 60 db. Listening time and loudness are two major factors that contribute to hearing loss.

Have you ever walked by someone and clearly heard the song they were listening to on their iPod? According to some studies, the average noise level people listen to on their portable music device is 85 decibels. Health experts say that being exposed to more than 85 decibels of sound for eight hours has been shown to be hazardous to hearing. Consequently there is a genuine concern that music lovers who listen to loud music for long periods of time may eventually lose their hearing.

Since noise exposures add up throughout our daily lives, it is important to understand and change behaviors that are exposing people to unsafe sound levels, especially children.

Generally, hearing loss occurs gradually and does not have obvious warning signs. However, a few symptoms that could be a sign hearing loss is taking place include constant ringing or buzzing in ears, difficulty hearing sounds or speech, and “plugged” ears.

Here are a few tips to avoid hearing loss while using your personal music device:

  1. Become educated on hearing loss and your particular device. If possible, use the settings on your music device to limit the volume to less than 85 db. Never max out your device's volume.
  2. Use the “60-60 Rule”: listen to 60 minutes at 60% volume per day. This reduces the output level and gives your ears a chance to rest.
  3. Choose the right type of headphones. The best choice is noise-canceling headphones because they cut down or eliminate ambient noise. Over-the-ear headphones are better than earbuds. Earbuds allow for a lot of outside noise and people tend to turn the volume up when it’s noisy around them, thus increasing overall noise exposure.
  4. Make sure noise levels are low enough to maintain communication and situational awareness.

Awareness and moderation are the keys to minimizing hearing loss. With a few simple changes to your listening habits, you can keep your ears healthy and reduce your chances of hearing loss in the future.