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Study Links Personal Music Players To Hearing Loss

CmdrTaco posted about 6 years ago | from the time-for-this-again dept.

Medicine 405

fprintf writes "A recent NY Times article discusses links between personal music players and hearing loss. This is not anything new; personally, I have hearing loss from listening to my Sony Walkman cassette player many years ago. However, given the widespread use of the personal music players, I see people using earbuds everywhere; is there a technical solution to the potential danger?"

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Turn down the volume (5, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | about 6 years ago | (#25355331)

s there a technical solution to the potential danger ?

Yes - very technical. Turn down the volume.

Re:Turn down the volume (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 6 years ago | (#25355381)

Yea that was going to be my suggestion.
The problem is that earbuds don't really cut down the ambient sound so people crank up the volume to over power the noise.

Re:Turn down the volume (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 6 years ago | (#25355473)

This is very old news, a large part of it is indeed poorly fitting earbuds and ones that don't block all the noise. None of the ones shipped by most companies are worth using, but the iPod ones are pretty bad and people seem to resist paying for a decent pair.

Yes, $50-100 is a fair amount of money, but what exactly is the monetary value of not losing ones hearing prematurely? Plus my shure e2c do a pretty good job of giving me a quality listening experience in most places.

And if that's too much money, one can always just pay for a cheaper set and deal with the over the head variety.

Re:Turn down the volume (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355603)

This is very old news

Exactly. I mean, WTF...

"This just in: Putting loud-speakers inside your ear and listening to music in too high volume for extended periods of time has been linked to hearing loss!"

Re:Turn down the volume (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 6 years ago | (#25355833)

Putting loud-speakers inside your ear and listening to music in too high volume for extended periods of time has been linked to hearing loss

<loud>WHAT?</loud>

Re:Turn down the volume (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 6 years ago | (#25355621)

Some of us listen to our music loud because we enjoy it. I exercise a lot and I need loud music to distract me from pain as well as road noises.

We know it's bad for us just as every smoker should know that smoking's bad for them.

Re:Turn down the volume (5, Insightful)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#25355709)

But you wouldn't have to turn the volume up so loud to drown out road noise if your headphones did a better job of blocking out noise in the first place. That's the point.

Re:Turn down the volume (4, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 6 years ago | (#25355775)

Some of us listen to our music loud because we enjoy it. I exercise a lot and I need loud music to distract me from pain as well as road noises.

We know it's bad for us just as every smoker should know that smoking's bad for them.

I think that many or most listeners actually don't know how much listening to loud music can cost. Most kids listening to music on earbuds in the subway turned up so loud so that I can hear lyrics from across the aisle probably know it's "bad" but don't know that doing it for just an hour can (and likely will) affect their hearing for the rest of their lives. My hearing suffered from rock concerts, and after I few years the loss had become noticeable (which is a difficult thing unless you get your hearing tested, since there's no easy standard for comparison when your hearing gets worse over a timescale of months or years). I knew it was potentially destructive before I went to so many shows without any sort of ear protection, but I thought, as you say, that it was worth it because I enjoyed it. Had I realized the extent of the risk, I might have behaved differently.

Maybe the "technical solution" is to include hearing tests in every medical checkup, since they only take a couple minutes.

Re:Turn down the volume (4, Funny)

xonar (1069832) | about 6 years ago | (#25355783)

Some of us listen to our music loud because we enjoy it. I exercise a lot and I need loud music to distract me from pain as well as road noises.

Being distracted from road noises could lead to a LOT of pain :P

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Windows_NT (1353809) | about 6 years ago | (#25355801)

smoking is bad!? I should quit!
Yes listening to music as loud levels is bad for your ears. I learned this at a young age from my parents lecturing me. But just like smoking, I like loud music too much to turn it down. There is nothing like listening to "For whom the bell tolls" at 100% volume.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

spikedvodka (188722) | about 6 years ago | (#25355879)

ditto for "Flight of the Valkyries" and "Phantom"

both incidentally make good music to drive to

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Chyeld (713439) | about 6 years ago | (#25355899)

The point was, with better equipment you get the same sensation of loudness without as much danger.

Re:Turn down the volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355913)

"I exercise a lot and I need loud music to distract me from pain as well as road noises."

Stop running against the traffic then.

Re:Turn down the volume (4, Funny)

penguin_dance (536599) | about 6 years ago | (#25355917)

I exercise a lot and I need loud music to distract me from pain as well as road noises.

Yes...well, in a few years, you won't have to worry about those distracting noises any more.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 6 years ago | (#25355977)

Big difference, though, since hearing loss won't affect your health directly in any other way.

Re:Turn down the volume (2, Insightful)

entgod (998805) | about 6 years ago | (#25355489)

As a later commenter suggested, the use of passively insulating earbuds (such as in ear monitors) or actively insulating ones (the ones that try to make noise that cancels out background noise) would help.

CRANK IT UP!!! (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 6 years ago | (#25355943)

This way, I don't have to stuff earbuds in my ears - I'll just listen to your music from 10 feet away. At that distance, it's safe for MY hering. If you want to go deaf, that's your decision. After all, what's the point of being able to hear if you won;t listen to common sense anyway?

Seriously. Just blast it out. Keep in mind, though, it can have serious health consequences ... and not only to your ears ... if you choose to play crap like Celine Dion or The Village People or Achy Breaky Heart or Techno-Pop or ... whatever ... you could find your ear buds "accidently" wired to the mains.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

JamesTRexx (675890) | about 6 years ago | (#25355627)

earbuds don't really cut down the ambient sound

That's how I prefer it though. When I walk around in traffic I prefer to be able to hear the other traffic.
I'd be too paranoid if I didn't hear anything like that as anything (car/cycle/scooter) could come up to me too sudden.
Using a player is more about having some background music while walking.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 6 years ago | (#25355823)

Maybe you shouldn't use it to cut yourself off from the rest of the world?

Just and suggestion but maybe we don't need background music every where?

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 6 years ago | (#25355999)

Just and suggestion but maybe we don't need background music every where?

They're my theme music. Every hero's got to have some.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095348/quotes [imdb.com]

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Itninja (937614) | about 6 years ago | (#25355941)

Or maybe you could lose the earbuds and create your own background music [thinkgeek.com]

Re:Turn down the volume (4, Interesting)

haystor (102186) | about 6 years ago | (#25356045)

Put down the music and run without it.

Your real objection is that you can't be alone with yourself for an extended time. You need something to drown that out.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 6 years ago | (#25356031)

So now I finally have a real reason to avoid earbuds rather than plain old discomfort :).

Call me old-fashioned, but I've always went for over-the-ears headphones for any portable player. They're a bit bulkier, but they are far more comfortable for me (I can't stand the "wedged in" feeling that earbuds give me, they filter out more outside sounds, and they sound better.

Cmdr Cocksucker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355443)

I dislike the new slashdot presentation. So unpleasant and unusable...

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355449)

Seriously. What a stupid question. If you don't play the audio any louder that a typical conversation, then it won't do any more damage than a typical conversation.

Hint: If your music is so loud that it drowns out the environment, so that you can't hear others talking, then it's way too loud.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 6 years ago | (#25355797)

Seriously. What a stupid question. If you don't play the audio any louder that a typical conversation, then it won't do any more damage than a typical conversation.

The problem isn't just the ear butds. There's a LOT of ambient noise in offices today, thanks to noisy fans in computers. You don't notice it until there's a power outage, but that constant drone will also cause a loss of audio acuity.

Then there's the problem of turning up the volume so you don't hear the stupid fans.

One of the benefits of laptops is they're a LOT quieter.

Turn down the server. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 6 years ago | (#25355923)

"The problem isn't just the ear butds. There's a LOT of ambient noise in offices today, thanks to noisy fans in computers. "

Another reason to use thin clients. Now if we could only look at the hearing loss amongst IT professionals.

This is a plot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355463)

Those hooknose jews want us to be deaf so we can't hear them when they steal our money.

Re:Turn down the volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355491)

I think what you mean to say is this:

TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!

Re:Turn op the volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355493)

no, you turn up the volume, to compensate for the hearing loss. If you listen to music so loudly that it could cause hearing loss, you are obviously not interested in hearing any other sounds anyway.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 years ago | (#25355543)

That's the non-technical solution, which involves educating users about hearing loss etc. etc. and isn't flashy enough to impress government figures or the media. The flashy, sure to be endorsed technical solution is mandatory audio player volume limits, as we have in Europe. Frankly I think they only help fuel the insufferable loudness war.

Turn the volume UP (4, Funny)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 6 years ago | (#25355567)

Turn down the volume.

How does that help? If you have hearing loss, the obvious solution is to turn UP the volume, so you can hear the music better, of course.

Re:Turn the volume UP (1)

U121 (1222094) | about 6 years ago | (#25355689)

That is indeed the way that most people reason. The better solution would be to get a pair of proper insulating earplugs or phones so you hear the same amount of music while having it at a lower volume. Sadly only recently have certain players started having bundled plugs or phones that do just this, and since the majority of people out there only use what came with their player, the result is as it says in TFA.

Re:Turn the volume UP (1)

spikedvodka (188722) | about 6 years ago | (#25355915)

the second part of the study though said that you want loose-fitting "on-ear" not "around the ear" or "in the ear" so that pressure waves have a chance to escape

I find volume is like a drug tolerance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355571)

I crave a higher volume the more I listen. The loudness itself actually enhances the music the more I listen in single session.

I can understand that loudness can cause hearing loss that requires more volume to hear, but I find the urge to up the levels in single sessions before any long-term damage is locked in.

I wonder if some dopamine systems are involved

Re:I find volume is like a drug tolerance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355947)

I wonder if some dopamine systems are involved

No. Hair cells are involved. Eventually loud noises cause damage to those cells.

Article claims tinnitus can result. That is correct. Tinnitus is, in a way, hearing loss. You do lose some ability to hear at the frequency your tinnitus is at. In reality tinnitus is far, far worse than just losing some hearing at a given frequency range.

You do not want tinnitus. Believe me. You do not want tinnitus.

Those damaged hair cells are still sending signals at the frequency the damage occurred at. Your brain continues to process those signals. End result? Endless ringing of the ears .

The ringing in your ears does not fucking stop. Ever.

Turn down the Goatse. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 6 years ago | (#25355697)

And to prevent blindness Slashdot implemented a filter. Thanks Slashdot!

Re:Turn down the Goatse. (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | about 6 years ago | (#25356007)

You mean no more porn?!? 'Tis a sad day indeed...

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

gravis777 (123605) | about 6 years ago | (#25355983)

I agree. The only time I have the volume up full blast on my iPod is when it is hooked up to the aux port in my car stereo.

If you are just trying to block out other sound, stop using the default-issued Apple earbuds, and spend about $20-$90 and get yourself a decent pair of noise canceling earphones. I got mine for $30 from Creative Labs, runs for about 20 hours on a single AAA battery, and I can keep the volume at around 1/3 of max and still block out most noise without my eardrums ringing.

Re:Turn down the volume (1)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | about 6 years ago | (#25356021)

To which I would ask another question: What
is the right level?

For one, there is no standard in music players, therefor recommending for example, 2/3 of the maximum volume is not an option.
Furthermore, restricting the volume of a music player is not doable either, as there are sometimes those situations in which the environment sounds are too loud for it to be audible.
I can also imagine that loads of other variables are in place (such as type of earbuds), so there just isn't one unique good setting for the volume.

The technical answer to this potential danger would imo be either an option somewhere within the music player which can let you limit yourself to best volume setting; Or in case of music players with no screens/menu, a small line on the volume-knob in between the minimum and maximum.

I have a non-technical solution (0, Redundant)

canajin56 (660655) | about 6 years ago | (#25355333)

Don't turn them up so god damned loud.

What? (5, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 6 years ago | (#25355351)

What?

Re:What? (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | about 6 years ago | (#25355659)

Poor lil' Jon. He must have used headphones a lot... by the time he realized he was losing his hearing, it was too late.

Re:What? (1)

Clarious (1177725) | about 6 years ago | (#25355865)

Does listening to loud music on headphone impairs eyesight too?

Solution - lower the max volume (2, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 6 years ago | (#25355353)

Unfortunately, most people play them way to loud so the only technical solution is to limit the output.

However, since many people find louder music *sounds* better unless every device maker does it those who don't may be at a competitive advantage; leading none to do so other than as Apple did as an option; which was probably more about limiting legal liability than anything else.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | about 6 years ago | (#25355457)

We shouldn't limit the players to protect their hearing. Everybody has been warned enough and if you're listening to maximum volume 5 days a week, you're such an idiot you deserve to go deaf.

A better reason would be to limit them so that they can't let me 'enjoy' their music without my consent.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | about 6 years ago | (#25355477)

It would be possible, if there was equal volume response for all earphones.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (1)

stjobe (78285) | about 6 years ago | (#25355515)

However, since many people find louder music *sounds* better

Two words: Loudness War [wikipedia.org] .

Get rid of that and you'll not only get better sound, you don't need to crank it up to 11 either.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | about 6 years ago | (#25355757)

True that. It used to drive me crazy in my disc changer that different discs would have wildly different volumes. I'd listen to an older CD on half-volume on my stereo and then it'd put on the next CD and it'd be deafening. Ridiculous. You lose all of the fidelity. RIAA types don't care though... they don't make music, they make money.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | about 6 years ago | (#25355679)

Several other players can have volume limits. My Creative ZEN for example is one (The max volume is actually a little too quiet, to the point it's hard to hear movies on an airplane, even with active noice cancelling headphones). Supposedly European firmware is worse. I am pretty sure some Sansa models can be limited as well.

Re:Solution - lower the max volume (4, Interesting)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 6 years ago | (#25355815)

part of the problem is the use of dynamic range compression. not all music CDs or mp3s have the same dynamic range, so with most rock/pop/hip-hop/etc. the volume only varies between loud and very loud. but with classical or other genres where dynamic range is preserved, you'll have huge variances in volume. this means if you limit the media player volume to suit rock music, then when consumers listen to classical they'll have a hard time hearing the low to medium volume parts of the track. you could implement a feature to automatically normalize all the tracks played (i think the iPod already has this), but i don't know if this will cause a loss of dynamic range and thus negatively affect sound quality.

personally, i don't think PMP makers should artificially limit the speaker output to prevent hearing loss. some people have more sensitive ears than others, and some need the volume to be a little higher, whether due to the music they listen to or their hearing ability. i think a better idea would be to monitor the speaker output and display a warning to the user if the audio level is high enough to cause damage. this will give users the freedom to use their players as they wish while promoting safe listening habits.

SCENIHR Report (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#25355357)

But it also threatens permanent hearing loss for as many as 10 million Europeans who use them, according to a scientific study for the European Union that will be published Monday.

I don't know if this is the report but the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) released a report on this in June [europa.eu] [PDF Warning!]. It's not as long as it looks, about a quarter of the pages are citations to other studies. It looks quite comprehensive. It's important to note that this is not a simple thing to study. The report points out several times that your age and daily exposure and anatomical structure all play an important role in what you can tolerate before experiencing hearing loss.

The abstract from that report:

Exposure to excessive noise is a major cause of hearing disorders worldwide. It is attributed to occupational noise. Besides noise at workplaces, which may contribute to 16% of the disabling hearing loss in adults, loud sounds at leisure times may reach excessive levels for instance in discos and personal music players (PMPs). It is estimated that over two decades the numbers of young people with social noise exposure has tripled (to around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst occupational noise had decreased. The increase in unit sales of portable audio devices including MP3 has been phenomenal in the EU over the last four years. Estimated units sales ranged between 184-246 million for all portable audio devices and between 124-165 million for MP3 players.

Noise-induced hearing loss is the product of sound level by duration of exposure. In order to counteract noise-induced hearing loss more effectively, a European directive "Noise at Work Regulations" taking effect starting February 2006, established the minimal security level at the equivalent noise exposure limit to 80 dB(A) for an 8 hour working day (or 40 hour working week), assuming that below this level the risk to hearing is negligible. The 8-hour equivalent level (Lequ,8h) is a widely used measure for the risk of hearing damage in industry, and can equally be applied to leisure noise exposures. The free-field equivalent sound pressure levels measured at maximum volume control setting of PMPs range around 80-115 dB(A) across different devices, and differences between different types of ear-phones may modify this level by up to 7-9 dB. The mean time of exposure ranges from below 1 hour to 14 hours a week.

Considering the daily (or weekly) time spent on listening to music through PMPs and typical volume control settings it has been estimated that the average, A-weighted, eight hour equivalent sound exposures levels (referred to "Noise at Work Regulations") from PMPs typically range from 75 to 85 dB(A). Such levels produce minimal risk of hearing impairment for the majority of PMP users. However, approximately 5% - 10% of the listeners are at high risk due to the levels patterns and duration of their listening preferences. The best estimate from the limited data we have available suggests that this maybe between 2.5 and 10m people in EU. Those are the individuals listening to music over 1 hour a day at high volume control setting.

Excessive noise can damage several cell types in the ear and lead to tinnitus, temporary or permanent hearing loss (deafness). Published data indicate that excessive acute exposures to PMPs music at maximal or near maximal output volume can produce temporary and reversible hearing impairment (tinnitus and slight deafness). Major discrepancies exist between the results of the studies on permanent noise-induced hearing loss in PMP users, with both, positive and negative studies published. Tinnitus and hearing fatigue may occur more frequently in teenagers chronically exposed to music, including PMP users, than in non-users.

In addition to auditory effects harmful, lasting and irreversible non-auditory effects of excessive listening to PMP can be expected; they include cardiovascular effects, cognition as well as distraction and masking effects. However, there is not sufficient evidence to state that music from PMPs constitutes a risk for such effects.

In the face of the large increases in risk to hearing (and tinnitus) due to increasing PMP use, there is a lack of data concerning:

  • a) the current PMP use pattern, duration and output level and exposure of users to other high level sound sources.
  • b) the contribution of noise to hearing difficulties and cognitive and attention deficits in children and young people.
  • c) long-term studies using more sensitive measures (e.g. otoacoustic emissions) to assess the impact of PMPs on hearing and identify the potential sub-groups more âat riskâ(TM) (e.g. genetic sub-groups and environmental sub-groups such as those who commute to work or school in noisy surroundings).
  • d)biological basis of individual susceptibility to noise and the benefits from pharmacological treatment.
  • e) whether excessive voluntary PMP-listening leads to lasting and irreversible cognitive and attention deficits after the cessation of the noise.

Personally, there have been two people at work that listen to internal (ear canal and ear bud) head phones at work and I can hear the music from those devices as I pass their cubes. Considering they put them in when they get to work and they don't take them out until they leave, I'm very concerned about their hearing. Only one of them actually changed his behavior as per my advice ... I think it was because I asked him if things sounded far away and distant immediately after he pulled the ear buds out of his ears.

At the moment I am listening to Sennheiser 457 [sennheiserusa.com] and rarely turn them up enough for people to hear. I hate using ear buds at the gym but it's difficult to run on the treadmill with external headphones.

Just do better earphones... (1)

sheaman (826235) | about 6 years ago | (#25355359)

Just give everyone isolating IEM's with iPods, and they won't have to blast the volume and losee their hearing!

Re:Just do better earphones... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355695)

But they will anyway.

Headphones (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | about 6 years ago | (#25355361)

I can't stand sticking anything in my ears. I bought myself a cheap $5 pair of headphones for my iPod with inline volume control on the wire. An added bonus is that it helps to shield my ears for the cold Michigan winter.

environment (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | about 6 years ago | (#25355373)

maybe if the environment around us was quieter, we wouldn't need to turn our {ipod,discman,walkman} up so loud to block it out!

Re:environment (1)

Matt Perry (793115) | about 6 years ago | (#25355523)

maybe if the environment around us was quieter, we wouldn't need to turn our {ipod,discman,walkman} up so loud to block it out!

I couldn't agree more. I look forward to the day when people start taking noise pollution as seriously as they do other types of pollution. At least some people are starting to notice [sfgate.com] the problems with excessive environmental noise.

YES! (4, Informative)

dalurka (540445) | about 6 years ago | (#25355387)

Some players have a dB-limit that can be activated. I remember that my old CD mp3 player did have this. It just did not allow the volume to be cranked up too high.

Re:YES! (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 6 years ago | (#25355509)

Those are mostly for the EU, I remember when Creative introduced the EU firmware which was mostly identical to the US firmware except it lowered the maximum output. I think there were a few other minor things to handle those languages better, but that was it.

Re:YES! (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#25355745)

The problem is not all headphones are created equal. The same volume level on your ipod might sound deafening in out set yet whisper quiet in another.

Certainly you should calibrate the max volume on your device for your own headphones but there's no magic bullet that'll work well for everyone.

I wonder (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | about 6 years ago | (#25355405)

Should I tag this story noshit or !shit?

Because this is NOT news and I have no sympathy with those people who screw their own ears with music that is way too loud.

Noise Canceling Headphones (2, Interesting)

WarlockSquire (212901) | about 6 years ago | (#25355411)

they let me listen to my music on a train at a dramatically reduced volume.

Re:Noise Canceling Headphones (5, Funny)

AioKits (1235070) | about 6 years ago | (#25355495)

All headphones are noise canceling if you listen to them long enough at max volume.

Re:Noise Canceling Headphones (1)

1s44c (552956) | about 6 years ago | (#25355529)

they let me listen to my music on a train at a dramatically reduced volume.

Works for me too, they really work great. Now I get to work without hearing anyone and without ringing in my ears from loud music.

Re:Noise Canceling Headphones (1)

YGingras (605709) | about 6 years ago | (#25355935)

Noise cancellation is good for constant humming sounds like jet engine and railroad generated vibrations but they suck terribly with human voice which is the leading factor [bnrc-cnrc.gc.ca] that breaks concentration. For usage outside of planes and trains, in-ear monitor and closed cans with a good isolation rating [headphonereviews.org] are a much safer bet.

Correct URL (1)

YGingras (605709) | about 6 years ago | (#25355985)

The correct URL of the COPE study [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca] is:
http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/ie/cope/index_e.html

The problem is gradual increase in volume (5, Insightful)

JustKidding (591117) | about 6 years ago | (#25355427)

I've noticed, many times, that I start out with a fairly low volume (maybe 10% or so), and when a good song comes along, I turn it up a bit. However, by the end of the song, I don't really notice the higher volume anymore, and the next time I get a good song, I turn it up a bit more, until the player is at its maximum volume.

If I take the earphones out of my ears, put them back in an hour later, and turn on the player, I'll pull them out of my ears as fast as I can because the music is so horribly loud.

So the solution, I think, is having a "volume boost" button, which boosts the volume for the duration of the current track, and gradually decreases to the normal level during the next track, to avoid stacking up the boosts.

Re:The problem is gradual increase in volume (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355683)

Actually that is your ears reacting to the noise that it hears. It gradually stiffens to protect the ears from loud noise, which decreases the ability to hear perfectly, but protects them. This is why you actually get the worst hearing damage if you have short really loud intermittent noises when normally it is silent. Much more so than a lower noise level for more time. There was a study about some Inuits who had incredibly bad hearing loss, because they would use guns to shoot seals with, after a day of sitting and hearing absolute silence all day.

Re:The problem is gradual increase in volume (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#25355821)

I find this works both ways. It's definitely noticeably quieter when I turn the volume down a little, but as long as I'm wearing sealed phones that do a good job of blocking the outside noise, within a minute or two, I don't really notice the difference and the music sounds like it's at a perfectly acceptable volume.

Re:The problem is gradual increase in volume (1)

JustKidding (591117) | about 6 years ago | (#25355951)

That is exactly my point; it's just that I forget the turn the volume back down at the end of the track, and, if I don't forget, I hate the sudden low volume when I do turn it down. It the player would just gradually turn it down, I probably wouldn't even notice it.

It might even be a bit clever about when to turn it down; most tracks start at a lower volume, so the player could gently reduce the volume as the track starts picking up.

Very simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355459)

To see if you've got the volume turned up too loud, take out the earbuds and hold them in front of you in your open hand. If you can tell which song is playing, the volume is too high. Added benefit of turning it down: You no longer annoy your fellow man.

Re:Very simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355705)

take out the earbuds and hold them in front of you in your open hand. If you can tell which song is playing, the volume is too high

If I do that, I can't hear them over the incessant howling of dozens of racks of servers, so they must not be too loud.

EVOLUTION (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355469)

only the strongest eardrums survive. I for one welcome our new steel-eardrummed overlords.

And in other news... (2, Funny)

YellowMatterCustard (1277360) | about 6 years ago | (#25355507)

Study links cigarettes to lung cancer.

Education (3, Funny)

repetty (260322) | about 6 years ago | (#25355521)

"...is there a technical solution to the potential danger?"

Education. Lots of films. Let's get a grant.

Bone conduction anyone? (5, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 6 years ago | (#25355553)

Does bone conduction cause the same problem? If not, Vibe Body Sound Headphones [thinkgeek.com] may be an answer.

Re:Bone conduction anyone? (1)

camg188 (932324) | about 6 years ago | (#25355811)

The bone fone!

Bone Fone 1980 [modernmechanix.com]

Should be: Nothing to see here, move along (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 6 years ago | (#25355577)

Seriously, this is a "Ric Romero" report to borrow a Fark term: High volumes for extended times cause hearing loss. News at 11. The only reason why portable players are any more significant in this than anything else is that since you can take them with you all the time, you have the opportunity to do the wrong ting more often.

There is no technical solution, because the maximum output of a player depends on the headphones plugged in to it. Plug in some low impedance IEMs with high efficiency, and you'll find that it may be able to produce SPLs in excess of 120dB no problem. Plug in some low efficiency high impedance professional phones, and you may find it struggles to do even 70dBSPL. Thus you can't set up some sort of magic limit that'll be ok for everything. A limit that would protect your ears with Shure IEMs would be damn near inaudible on Sennheiser 580s.

There are two things you can do to protect yourself:

1) Turn the volume down. Really, it is that simple. Just don't set the things so loud and it isn't a problem. That is ultimately what you have to do.

2) Get phones that isolate better. The reason why some people abuse the volume dial is to try and drown out noise. Don't do that. Block the noise instead. Instead of cheap earbuds, invest in some good IEMs. Yes, it is going to run you $100-300. Deal with it. If you can drop hundreds on a iPod, you can drop hundreds on good phones to go with it. Then take the time to get the right fit for your ears so they create a good seal. That will attenuate sound nearly as much as good earplugs.

With good earphones, you should be able to keep the volume down and still enjoy the music. You keep the volume down, there's no problem.

Loud noise, no matter what the source, is dangerous to your hearing especially over long periods of time. Playing loud music on speakers is just as bad as headphones. Only difference is you can do it all day on headphones and nobody will yell at you. Just turn that shit down to a reasonable level. If you can't because things are too noisy, get better headphones to block the noise.

Block it out, don't drown it out (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#25355989)

Really, #2 is the key here. Most cheap headphones are completely open - they do nothing to block out sound. So when your surroundings are noisy, the only option is to jack up the sound.

While IEMs are the best way (there are some reasonable choices for under $100 as well) to block sound, another option is to look for closed headphones - ones that completely cover the ear and don't have any vents or anything to let outside sound in. These are the kinds you see DJs wearing - after all, they need to be able to listen to what they're spinning through the deafening blast of huge club speakers. They're not as ultra-portable as IEMs but many find them more comfortable.

Re:Should be: Nothing to see here, move along (1)

Leigh13 (96452) | about 6 years ago | (#25356055)

2) Instead of cheap earbuds, invest in some good IEMs. Yes, it is going to run you $100-300. Deal with it. If you can drop hundreds on a iPod, you can drop hundreds on good phones to go with it.

Agreed that good isolation headphones will let you listen at a much safer volume level. But there is no need to spend tons on pro-quality phones if you just want something that's going to block out the background noise better. Check out Koss "The Plug" or "Sparkplug" model--they're under $12 at Amazon and sound much, much better than most cheap headphones. They've easily given me the best bang-for-the-buck on any audio gear I've purchased over the years.

When I was a kid (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 6 years ago | (#25355595)

there was work on sound via bone induction. Is that around and was it improved? And does it work in stero?

As if hearing loss was not enough... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 6 years ago | (#25355613)

...most of the folks that use gadgets are completely oblivious to their surroundings. The other day, one guy who was listening to some kind of rap music, was almost run over by a car as he simply crossed the street against the traffic signal.

In a number of cases, these folks play their music so loud that it even disturbs those around. With this, they put themselves in their own world, make gadget sellers like Steve Jobs rich and place themselves at risk. Ironic!

Gadget makers insulate themselves from the long arm of the law by using a "disclaimer" for lack of a better word.

Caution (2, Funny)

LSD-OBS (183415) | about 6 years ago | (#25355633)

I DON'T HAVE AN MP3 PLAYER AND MY HEARING IS JUST FINE!

Although DJing white noise in an industrial club every other weekend probably doesn't help

Signal to Noise (2, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | about 6 years ago | (#25355637)

Some people turn up their music so that it really is loud in their ears. Most people, however, turn it up so damn loud to get the desired signal (music) above the background noise: car traffic, car interiors, subways, crowds, airplane cabins. When the noise floor is already pretty loud (50-80 dB), you have to pump up the volume on that music player ever higher to be able to "hear" it. There's psychoacoustics involved beyond just the overlapping audio sources. Music played that loud, even if it doesn't seem loud (because it's only, say, 10-20 dB above the noise floor) is actually well above the NIOSH limits on what can be a safe prolonged exposure. Result: hearing loss.

The only real solution that will allow you to hear your music (or cellphone, for that matter) without having to crank it up to damage-inducing volumes, is to reduce the noise floor. This can be done pretty easily with passive noise attenuation - padded headphones can give you a few dB of attenuation of low frequencies, and tens of dBs at higher frequencies. Earbuds offer almost no passive noise attenuation, although they could do a little bit if they sealed off the ear canal. Unfortunately, big padded headphones are a lot more conspicuous than little white earbuds, and they didn't come with your iPod, and you can't easily stow them in your pocket.

The other alternative is active noise reduction, like the Bose QuietComfort. You can even find noise-cancelling earbuds, although they tend to not work as well. Unfortunately, ANR doesn't come cheap if you want something that actually works and doesn't ruin your listening experience. Still, digital signal processing with low-power components will probably make this more widely-available in the future....if you can still hear anything by then.

Re:Signal to Noise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355825)

You can buy those earphones that have (removable) soft rubbery plastic membranes. They're good for passive noise cancelling, but they aren't great for your ear's hygiene (you get waxier ears), the plugs get lost easily, they're not cheap and the speaker driver is tiny (~2-3mm diameter) so there's a quality ceiling. However, they're good for cancelling noise, they don't cost a lot (mine cost $60, but they're fairly nice Sennheisers) and they're portable.

Re:Signal to Noise (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 6 years ago | (#25355931)

Good in-ear headphones solve the noise floor problem much better than padded headphones or noise-canceling systems I've tried (including $3k aviation padded/noise-canceling headsets). They may feel strange or uncomfortable to some people, especially when first getting used to them, but they let you listen to music at low volume in almost any situation without worrying about background noise. Their problem is that they do it too well - I don't recommend walking near traffic with this type of speaker.

My comments are limited to quality headphones like Etymotic ER4s. The Apple in-ear headphones don't work so well for blocking out external noise, which may seem like a nice compromise for situations when you need to hear background sounds, but unfortunately they also don't do a good job of piping the music into your ear, so things will sound tinny.

Honestly... (1)

wilgibson (933961) | about 6 years ago | (#25355641)

I'm more worried about the people I see driving around listening to their iPod. It seems to be a big thing where I live. They'll be in their cars, white earbuds on, moving their head to the beat of the music, oblivious to any noise being made at all. It really scares me.

true story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355643)

I'm 34yo engineering, I like long walks... oh wrong forum. I was in the lab debugging some equipment with a younger engineer, maybe 23 or 22. I noticed one of our hubs would emit a high pitch sound when network cable was plugged in. I demonstrated it to the younger guy but he couldn't hear it. It freaked him out because I'm 10 years older and can hear things he can't. I asked him if he has an Ipod? Yup. Do you listen to it load? Yup....

Noise Reduction Headphones is one Solution (4, Interesting)

ayjay29 (144994) | about 6 years ago | (#25355667)

>>is there a technical solution to the potential danger?"

I used my mp3 player on a couple of flights. When I into a quiet hotel room and used it again i was shocked at the volume level i had used on the flight. If you are on a plane (train or buss as well), you tend to play it loud to drown out the bakground noise.

As I fly quite a bit, i bought a pair of noise reduction headphones. I went for a $75 pair at first, as I could not see the point of spending $300 on the Bose headphones. The $75 pair were pretty rublish, not much effect at all, so I splashed out another $300 on a pair of Bose noise reduction phones. They may be expensive, but they are worth the money as you can use a much lower volume setting and still hear everything very clearly.

I really recommend them as a way to protect your ears if you travel by plane, train or bus a lot. The luxary of having a cocoon of tranquility on the flight is also very nice to have.

That's Odd... (3, Funny)

superdan2k (135614) | about 6 years ago | (#25355727)

...my study indicates that this is a correlation and not a causation. I show that a lack of common sense is more apt to cause hearing loss.

ipod earbuds are to blame (2, Insightful)

nedder (690308) | about 6 years ago | (#25355781)

Sadly, the white ipod earbuds are the primary cause of hearing loss/damage.

The earbuds aren't designed to seal the ear canal so people have to run the volume so high on them to get above the noise level.

Apple's only concern is to include the cheapest headphones possible. Unfortunately, the white earbuds are a (pathetic) fashion statement, and they sound good enough that most people keep them.

Why are you using the ear buds most of the time? (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 6 years ago | (#25355803)

If you're at home or in your car, use regular speakers. If you're at work, get noise-reduction headphones because they'll let you listen to your music at lower volumes because it won't be competing with outside noise. If you're walking around in public, you probably shouldn't be using a PMP anyway, since you could easily find yourself too distracted to notice the sound of an approaching car or something like that. I know a guy who witnessed a teen getting splattered across a road because she was listening to her iPod, and didn't even notice that she was crossing over into a busy street.

Re:Why are you using the ear buds most of the time (2, Funny)

Darlo888 (1235928) | about 6 years ago | (#25355887)

Since when does listening to music make your eyes stop working? i swear most of the people who do that are just plain stupid

And 89 dB means what? (1)

Xelios (822510) | about 6 years ago | (#25355837)

I have no idea what the volume levels on my cell phone mean. I can group the 1-10 scale into quiet, loud, louder and loudest, but where is 89 dB in that 1-10 scale? I have no idea. It would be helpful if the manual listed the dB levels that the factory supplied headphones are capable of generating at each volume level. As it stands the manual for my Ericsson doesn't even mention the headphones.

Really? (1)

sigzero (914876) | about 6 years ago | (#25355845)

Did anyone really need to do a study on this?

My solution. (2, Interesting)

achenaar (934663) | about 6 years ago | (#25355875)

I used to use a pair of these [sennheiserfrance.com] even when out and about. Yeah they might make you look a bit silly, but there are upsides. The sound quality was awesome (as far as I can remember). Also, a driver approaching you as you cross the street can plainly see that you've got music on and may not be able to hear them.
I found it remarkably easy to "get over" receiving funny looks, and really enjoyed the quality of the sound.
These days the kids play their music on their mobile phone *speakers* for crying out loud. What is it? Do they actually hate music so much that they'll squeeze it out of a mobile phone in crap-o-sound form?
mind: boggles

mod doo3n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25355889)

, a pro0d member All parties it's

Simple technical solution (4, Funny)

nolife (233813) | about 6 years ago | (#25356035)

Make a player that you can only turn up to 9.

Cans should be a fasion statement (3, Interesting)

MassiveForces (991813) | about 6 years ago | (#25356037)

I got myself a pair of these headphones: http://www.trustedreviews.com/multimedia/review/2006/03/20/Acoustic-Authority-iRhythms-A-9900-Sound-Cancelling-Headphones/p1 [trustedreviews.com] - Acoustic Authority iRhythms which are noise cancelling. Pair it with my Samsung T10 and you have cost effective quality audio with sub 60khz bass to knock your socks off (if you like).

I reckon people turn up their earbuds so they can hear bass or treble but really anything out of an earbud is going to be tinny - especially if it's coming out of an ipod. I'm pretty sure if they got themselves a decent pair of equipment like those they wouldn't feel like compensating for anything with volume.
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