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Study Links Personal Music Players To Hearing Loss 405

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the time-for-this-again dept.
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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Study Links Personal Music Players To Hearing Loss

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  • by mbone (558574) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:46AM (#25355331)

    s there a technical solution to the potential danger ?

    Yes - very technical. Turn down the volume.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:49AM (#25355381) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • by hedwards (940851) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:53AM (#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.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:01AM (#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!"

          • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:15AM (#25355833) Homepage Journal

            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>

            • by Tetsujin (103070) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:47AM (#25356459) Homepage Journal

              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>

              SOMETHING ABOUT PUTTING CLOUD SNEAKERS INSIDE YOUR BEER I THINK!

              • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:18PM (#25356895)

                I'm pretty sure he said, "Putting loud-speakers inside your ear purple monkey dishwasher."

        • 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.
          • by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:08AM (#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.

            • by edittard (805475) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:53AM (#25356553)
              The trouble is that if you block out all the road noise you might not hear that 18 wheeler coming up from beh no carrier
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by electrictroy (912290)

              There is one way that Ipods are better than the Cassette Walkmans I used as a teenager. - Due to the often-extreme amount of AAC or MP3 compression, they sound like utter crap when turned to loud volumes (lots of metallic-sounding noises). Ipods actually sound best when they are low in volume, so as to hide the compression artifacts.

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

              (20 years later)

              "Sorry wha? I cannae hear ya! Yeah my ears are sho

          • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:13AM (#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.

            • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:10PM (#25356775) Homepage
              Young people think they're invincible and fail to realize that actions they take now can hurt themselves for the rest of their lives-- News at 11.
            • by pazu (99303) on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:24PM (#25357021) Homepage

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

              Too bad most doctors are too biased or ignorant enough to stop listening to you as soon as their hear the word "iPod".

              I own an iPhone and a pair of Etymotic HF2 earphones. These are in-ear, noise isolating earphones, and I use them exactly because I don't want to turn my volume too high. Most of the time, I hear to music just one click above silence (I mean, turn the volume to zero, than press up just once), two if I'm in a very noise environment, like walking in the streets.

              I seriously doubt hearing music at these levels could cause any long term hearing loss, but I've noticed my ears started ringing a few months ago -- maybe it's always been there, I don't know, but I only noticed recently.

              I've visited an ENT recently and he completely dismissed everything I've said as soon as he heard I had a music player. I mentioned the low volume, the noise isolating earphones, but he just ignored me. He "prescribed" me to stop using earphones, period.

              So, yes, include hearing tests in every medical checkup, but please educate doctors about modern equipment and their actual effect on hearing.

            • by xaxa (988988) on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:27PM (#25357093)

              I was a bit late going to my first proper rock concert, I was 18. I stood right at the front, and it was brilliant. Then I listened to the album using headphones when I got home -- but at full volume, because my hearing was still suffering from the concert and I wanted loud. Big mistake -- the next morning I couldn't hear anything. I've never been so scared as when I woke up at 5am because my ears hurt and I couldn't hear anything.
              Thankfully my hearing returned in one ear the next day, and in the other the day after.

              I think the headphones were to blame, but I bought some earplugs for about £15 from eBay and I've used them at every concert I've been to since then. They don't distort the music, and it's still fun, and I don't feel like my ears are full of fluff when I leave.
              I don't use headphones after going to a club/gig either.

              Don't lose the music! [dontlosethemusic.com] (excellent advice)

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by xonar (1069832)

            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

          • by Chyeld (713439)

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

          • by penguin_dance (536599) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:19AM (#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.

            • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:08PM (#25356757)

              Honestly, road noise is probably the last thing I'd rank as a safety feature. I'm sure there is some situation where it would be helpful, but I haven't yet experienced it. I used to drive approximately 1000 miles per week, for several years, and never once found a noise that helped me drive. In my opinion, here are things you can do that will provide several times more benefit.

              1. Leave early, and don't be in a rush.
              2. Don't drive while tired.
              3. Take breaks, and stretch your legs for 10 minutes to refresh your body and mind.

              4. Adopt a policy that 'dangerous driving, not speed, kills' and enforce it as such. I've seen more highway accidents that were caused by police than I thought was possible.

              Why? In the US, it is not a fun thing to see a cop car pretty much ever. You could be doing 50 in a 55 mph zone and you would instinctively want to press on your brakes when you see a cop on the side of the road, then for a few seconds, you will look at your speedometer, check your mirrors, and generally be on edge.

              What weren't you doing for those few seconds?
              Paying attention to the road and other cars.

              When people become more worried about if there is a police car behind the next bend, and not a deer, that causes significant risk in driving.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BigGar' (411008)

          $50-100 on better earphones is better money spent than on one or two of these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_aid [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by entgod (998805)
        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.
        • 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-

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Dogtanian (588974)

            At that distance, it's safe for MY hering.

            It makes a change from a goldfish, I guess.

      • 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.
    • by Sockatume (732728)
      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.
    • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:59AM (#25355567) Homepage Journal

      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.

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

    • by gravis777 (123605)

      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.

  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:47AM (#25355351) Homepage Journal
    What?
    • Poor lil' Jon. He must have used headphones a lot... by the time he realized he was losing his hearing, it was too late.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:48AM (#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.

    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      It would be possible, if there was equal volume response for all earphones.
    • by stjobe (78285)

      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.

      • 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.
      • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Monday October 13, 2008 @03:35PM (#25360017) Homepage Journal

        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.

        actually, you could not possibly be any more wrong here.

        one of the biggest reasons FOR the loudness war is noisy listening environments.

        when you have very dynamic music being played, the quieter sections are often lost in the background noise, and all you can hear are the peaks. I have some old CD's with good dynamic range, and they are completely unlistenable on buses and subways because i can't hear anything except for the occasional symbol crash.

        music that has been over-compressed is loud all the time, so i CAN hear everything, even the quiet sections, over the background noise.

        i am not endorsing the loudness war here, i enjoy music with a wide dynamic range-when i have ideal listen conditions. When I'm on the go, compressed music works better.

        Ideally, band would make 2 releases, a CD with full, rich, beautiful dynamic range, and a free mp3 release that's compressed for optimal listening in noisy environments.

    • by Kamokazi (1080091)
      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.
    • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:14AM (#25355815) Homepage

      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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:48AM (#25355357) Journal

    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-a

  • 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.
  • 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!

    • 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! (Score:4, Informative)

    by dalurka (540445) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:50AM (#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.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • by JustKidding (591117) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:51AM (#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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  • Study links cigarettes to lung cancer.
  • Education (Score:4, Funny)

    by repetty (260322) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:56AM (#25355521) Homepage

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

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

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:58AM (#25355553) Journal

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323)

      Yes. You hear because the hair in your inner ear vibrates. You get hearing loss when those hairs are damaged. Whether that sound comes from your eardrum or through your skull, doesn't matter.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday October 13, 2008 @10:59AM (#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.

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

  • Caution (Score:3, Funny)

    by LSD-OBS (183415) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:03AM (#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 (Score:3, Informative)

    by necro81 (917438) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:04AM (#25355637) Journal

    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.

    • 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 com

  • by ayjay29 (144994) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:06AM (#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.

  • by superdan2k (135614) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:10AM (#25355727) Homepage Journal
    ...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.
  • 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.

  • 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 t

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Darlo888 (1235928)
      Since when does listening to music make your eyes stop working? i swear most of the people who do that are just plain stupid
  • 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.
  • My solution. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by achenaar (934663)
    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. Wha
  • by nolife (233813) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:26AM (#25356035) Homepage Journal

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

  • by MassiveForces (991813) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:26AM (#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.
  • Non-issue, really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:28AM (#25356075) Homepage

    Just as has already been stated: If you listen to stuff too loud it will damage your hearing...

    But is this so much of an issue? You can turn down the volume yourself...

    I find that places where you can't affect the volume are a much bigger problem. I always have earplugs when I go to nightclubs these days, I don't want my tinnitus to get any worse. I can't tell the DJ to keep it down, but I also want to go out.

    A lot of movies are insanely loud these days, but fortunately there usually are quiet passages to let the ears rest.

    For me the worst damage to my ears has actually come from a rather surprising source: My own kids. We even measured 110 dB (in front of the mouth) from one of them when they were little. So what to do when they are crying? I'm not gonna go running for earplugs every time I need to attend to them...

    I guess the bottom line is everything taxes our hearing. Wise people protect it to a sensible degree.

  • by Aging_Newbie (16932) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:35AM (#25356237)

    The real problem is to determine whether you are playing the music too loudly for your safety. Here is how to get a good idea of the harm you are doing ...

    1. Find something like a watch or other device that makes a very quiet sound. Find a distance where you can just make out the sound.

    2. Listen to your music source at your customary level for 15 to 30 minutes or longer if that is your habit.

    3. Set up the conditions in (1) above and see if you can still hear the sound. If you can, you are probably not harming your hearing ... If not, then you have a temporary threshold shift and you have already done some small amount of damage to your hearing. The greater the shift, the greater the damage.

    4. More likely, if you listen to loud music or listen in inherently noisy places, you will notice the threshold shift in daily life. background noises disappear, which is like 40-50dB SPL, and definitely a problem.

    These hearing conservation links explain a lot [okstate.edu] Mp3 players are not the only culprit, driving with wind noise in your left (or your passenger's right) ear, circular saws and construction tools, and other sources of noise are damaging. Music is different in that it can not be blocked but can be controlled.

    If you don't protect your hearing from loud sound, sooner or later a notch will start to form in your ear's frequency response curve. The notch will be centered around 4000 Hz, right where high frequencies get really high, and useful too. That notch widens above and below until it impacts 2KHz or even lower. Somewhere along the way, the detectors in the ear will get so damaged that they start detecting sound non-linearly and harmonic and intermodulation distortion arise. Finally, when they get injured some more, they start to fire "all or none" and even moderately loud sounds can be painful. That is called recruitment and is really damaging to hearing and sanity.

    I hope this information is useful to readers. I hate to see people lose hearing when it is so unnecessary in most cases.

    If you think your hearing is going bad, see an audiologist or ear doctor or both, soon. Most processes can be stopped, and believe me, you will be glad you at least stopped the damage.

    I am pushing 60 years old, have used threshold shift changes to remind me to protect my hearing, and still have no noise notch in my good ear. My other ear was damaged by childhood infections and is mostly useless so I guess having only one ear made me more careful.

  • Technical solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:49AM (#25356501)

    Being a graduate audio systems engineer, one thing that springs to mind is to make speaker drivers in headphones less resonant between 3-5khz. It seems all I hear on bus/tube journeys from people listening to music is the hissing zingy twang of cymbals and guitar distortion.

    The fact that this range is around the resonant frequency of the human ear canal means that this (already quite prominent) range of frequencies is amplified further by your body.

    If earphones were more linear in their response perhaps people wouldn't damage their hearing as much - or turn up the volume.

  • by composer777 (175489) * on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:20PM (#25356919)

    The atmosphere and objects in the environment naturally dampen high frequencies. So, if you are listening to a set of stereo speakers 15 feet away, the high frequencies are significantly reduced compared to if you put your ear right next to it. Likewise, putting an earbud in your ear means that there is NO roll-off (dampening) of high frequencies. As a result, your ear is getting a huge dose of high frequency noise. Proper modeling of this and filtering of high frequencies would go a long way to curbing hearing loss. Don't count on people turning down the treble on their own. We've grown accustomed to it, and really the hardware should do it for us.

  • IEMs / Canalphones (Score:3, Informative)

    by burris (122191) on Monday October 13, 2008 @12:58PM (#25357649)

    What you want are "in ear monitors" a.k.a. "canalphones." These are like earplugs with a sound transducer in the center. They attenuate ambient noise by up to -23dB, depending on the model. With that much attenuation, you don't have to turn them up to dangerous levels to hear them, even on the subway. They're designed for musicians so they can hear what they are playing on stage without blasting it over everything else. They coil up into a pouch that fits into your pocket. Plus, they sound very good. Some have reference quality sound and will sound better than any other pair of headphones available unless you listen in a silent room.

    Downsides: if you can't handle a plug in your ear then you can't use them, but you can get a custom molded earpiece that makes them very comfortable. Also, the cable can conduct handling noise into your ear, though this isn't a problem with the "pro" versions that hook over your ear or the ones with very thin and pliable cables.

    The biggest downside is you cannot hear anything around you with them on, which can make them very dangerous to use in traffic and other situations.

    Manufacturers include Etymotics, UltimateEars, Sensaphonics, Shure, and probably a couple others. I've been a big fan of the Etys/Sensaphonics. I recommend the Etymotic ER-6i. Get the ER-4P if you have more money to spend and want better sound. Both of these are high impedence models that work well with an ipod or laptop without a separate high current amplifier.

    Once you start using these things you will be spoiled for anything else.

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