Today’s Atlantic piece adds some interesting new research nuggets to the shitpile of evidence that da yoots are deafening demselves with dose damn iPods!
Audiology doctoral candidate Cory Portnuff used an electronic monitoring device to see the actual gain levels and timespans of people’s headphone use. It has long been known that volume x time = extent of damage, but people don’t self-report very accurately, making things hard to quantify. Portnuff’s study takes that variable out of the equation. His findings:
Consistent with previous research, his study found that people will increase their listening levels in proportion to background noise. But he said the most interesting or, rather, concerning result of the study was finding that 17 percent of the people monitored were putting themselves at risk for music-induced hearing loss from daily activities, exceeding the maximum allowable dosage for the day.
"It’s a small but substantial group, about one in six people that are putting themselves at risk for hearing loss," Portnuff said. "That on its own is not a huge number, but when you think about the number of iPods in the world, we start to get a little concerned."
I was at this year’s American Academy of Audiology meeting and I can tell you that audiologists are seeing a lot of young people with hearing loss and tinnitus—twenty-somethings with eighty-something ears was a big topic of conversation. However, there are a few simple and effective things you can do to protect yourself, none of which should significantly diminish your listening pleasure.
- Ditch those crap earbuds. Earbuds are the worst of both worlds—they beam straight into your ear canal, but they don’t fill the canal to block outside noise. When you’re in a noisy urban environment, you have to crank them up too loud. You don’t need noise-canceling earphones, decent in-ear monitors will do. (The MEElectronics M9s are a steal at $18.)
- Rest your ears! (No, really.) Give those little hairs in your ears a chance to recover. Portnuff suggests the 80-90 rule, listening at 80 percent volume (or 90 dBA) for 90 minutes, then take a break. However, if you follow my first suggestion and use in-ear phones, 80% may be too loud. Use the lowest enjoyable volume you can. Your brain will eventually turn it up for you as you get used to it.
- This isn’t iPod related, but wear earplugs at live shows. Plugs have come a long way from those foam things (not to mention the age-old Wadded Up Toilet Paper Method). Ety Plugs are cheap, effective, and close to transparent sounding: they cut the volume by 20dB without muffling the sound.