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What, I Can’t Hear You!

Circumaural headphones have large pads that su...
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In a recent study, a group of Boston doctors have discovered that 1 in 5 kids having hearing loss typical of 50-60 year olds.

In this study, the doctors looked at a group of 3000 teens from 1988 to 1994 and compared their hearing data with a group of 1500 teens between 2005 and 2006.  What they found was disturbing.  Slight hearing loss and more severe hearing loss was higher in the 05/06 group when compared to the 88-94 group.

This is not good.  See it starts with the teens not being able to hear whispers when they are young.  This shouldn’t happen until they are in their 30’s or 40’s.  If they continue down this road, as many doctors assume they will, when they are 30-40 they will have a hard time hearing questions in a boardroom.  You can imagine the frustration of an employer when you answer a question wrong because you cannot hear.

Theses teens are experiencing Noise Induced Hearing Loss.  When we are exposed to harmful noise—sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time—sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged.  These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back.

Sound is measured in decibels and it is pretty well accepted that noises between 120 and 150 decibels can cause this hearing loss.Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before hearing loss can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.

Let’s take a guess at what decibel level a typical MP3 player comes in at.  The max volume cranks out about 120 decibels.  A study that I looked at felt that one hour per day at 60% shouldn’t cause damage but they couldn’t be sure.

What can you do about it?

The MP3 player that I am most familiar with is the Ipod.  Apple has a cool feature that allows you to set the max volume that an Ipod can be played at, they even include a combination to lock this level.  Follow these instructions to set your max volume level:

  • Select settings>volume limit
  • Use the click wheel to slide the bar up and down, until you find a reasonable level, maybe 50%
  • Click set combination and put in a 4 digit code that you won’t forget
  • Test

If this Ipod is for your children this will be a great way to manage the volume that they can max out at.

Choosing a good set of headphones may also help.  Ditch the in the ear headphones and go for something that goes over the ear and has a noise canceling feature.  Companies like Bose make a nice set, although oftentimes you will spend more on the head phones than the Ipod itself.

Lastly, limit how much time you spend listening to music piped directly into your ears.  30 minutes a day at the gym? No big deal.  4 hours in the car on a road trip, big deal.

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