My 14-year old daughter is always listening to loud music on her iPod. In fact, from 10 feet away you can hear guitar riffs and muffled lyrics leaking out of her ear buds (the ear phones that come with an iPod and fit inside the ears).
“Listening to mp3 players at loud levels can certainly cause hearing loss, especially in teenagers who listen to them several hours a day, ” says Susie Ternes, an audiologist with Via Christi Audiology.
I explained to my daughter that her inner ear contains hair cells that are essential for hearing. Loud sounds damage these hair cells and cause hearing loss.
“Noises 85 decibels or louder are capable of causing permanent damage to the inner ear,” Ternes warns. “A typical mp3 player has a maximum output of 110 or 120 decibels.”
The unit of measurement for sound intensity is called a decibel. For comparison, 85 decibels is approximately the loudness of a hair dryer and a power saw is approximately 110 decibels.
Ternes recommended the following steps to protect my teen’s hearing.
- Replace earbuds (which sit in the ears) with sound-isolating headphones that go around the ears
- Set the volume limit (under settings menu) on the mp3 player to ½ to 2/3 of the max volume
- Limit listening time to a few hours per day
Finally, Ternes warned, “If your teen is experiencing ringing in the ears, starts turning the TV up, or just doesn’t seem to be responding to sound like she should, you should consult an audiologist.”