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Unintended Aural Consequences of MP3 Compression 670

zenst writes "A rather interesting read about possible damage to your hearing due to the way most audio compression techneques work. They mainly work by presenting a signal that the brain perceives to be the same as the original and it is this assumption that could effect our hearing and the way we hear."
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Unintended Aural Consequences of MP3 Compression

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  • woo-whooo (Score:3, Funny)

    by unterderbrucke ( 628741 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:11PM (#4933722)
    I'm downloading 512kbps version songs of my entire library right now to avoid this!
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @12:28AM (#4934503)
      The guy's thesis is VERY speculative. Still it raises some interesting points.

      the nerves in your ear and all the low-level neural processing of sound will fire in response to the gaps, watermarks or subliminal signals in the music stream. It is only the brain that filters these out. But is the brain unaware of the signals?

      it's long been known that humans perceive sounds they dont actually hear in the sense that their brain registers it. Ancient church organs have sub sonic and ultra-sonic pipes in them for the purpose of stimulating emotional responses in the audience. It's well known from many pyschological studies that slight , consciously imperceptible, delays introduced into telephone conversation response times causes people to think the person they are talking to is angry.As a kid I could always hear the flyback transformers in TVs and video screen. I could not tell you what the sound sounded like--it was not a high pitch. it was no pitch at all. But I could tell it was present.

      The thesis that spectral drop-outs could somehow disrupt neural feedback circuits is an interesting one. Certainly most human made electronic circuits dont handle delta-function responses well: that is the phase lag in any feasible feedback circuit puts an upper limit on the fidelity of the response. Thus the idea that the neural feedback that nulls the unwanted off-pitch sympathetic vibrations in the ear following a loud signal could be disrupted if the waveform was not continous after the loud noise is a valid one. Would this lead to false retraining of the neural net and thus tinitiitus? doubtful. But interesting as an example of an unintended consequence no one thought of before.

  • by antistuff ( 233076 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:11PM (#4933725) Homepage
    I thought my hearing was going from turing my speakers all the way up.
  • Tinnitus (Score:4, Informative)

    by The Gline ( 173269 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:13PM (#4933737) Homepage
    There are many reasons for hearing loss and tinnitus that have nothing to do with what you listen to or what volume you listen to it at and everything to do with, for instance, degenerative diseases of the inner ear. The article doesn't provide much to persuade me that MP3s are going to make people go deaf.
    • The article (Score:4, Funny)

      by carlcmc ( 322350 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:19PM (#4933793)
      is such a load of cr@p! MP3=tinnitus???? whatever.

      As a healthcare provider and someone that works at Mayo clinic, this article does not even merit the cursory speed read.

    • Ear infections can do it too. I had some nasty ear infections as a young kid and I have a small amount of tinnitus from it.
    • Re:Tinnitus (Score:5, Informative)

      by theLime ( 4908 ) < minus pi> on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:44PM (#4933952) Homepage
      Hmm, did you READ the article?

      He says "is still unclear whether the consequences of such maladjustments are only temporary (similarly like seeing the world in green/ red discoloured after taking off red/ green 3D glasses) or if the continuous consumption of neuroacoustically datareduced sounds can lead to long lasting or even permanent damage."

      and also "I try here in no way to demonize MP3 in the name of the sound carrier industry"

      He's not trying to scare people, he's just theorizing, with a educated point of view.

      MP3 and other lossy codecs fool our ears, and unlike our eyes, our ears require constant re-calibration to function properly. If we are calibrating to inaccurate/unnatural sounds, he thinks this could be a concern.

      Certainly just listening to a few mp3's a day is nothing to worry about, but what about when all of the media we saturate ourselves with is lossy-encoded?

      I don't know, and this is not a scientific article. He's just throwing the idea out there.
      • Re:Tinnitus (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lommer ( 566164 )
        "MP3 and other lossy codecs fool our ears, and unlike our eyes, our ears require constant re-calibration to function properly. If we are calibrating to inaccurate/unnatural sounds, he thinks this could be a concern."

        Hmm, are you so sure about that? It is entirely possible that our eyes require very similar forms of calibration, but that we have not even theorized the existence(sp?) of such a problem b/c we don't spend nearly as much time watching lossily encoded images as we spend listening to lossily encoded sounds. Is it possible that a form of this could partially account for eye-strain from staring at a monitor for hours on end? (I personally don't suffer from it, but I know many people who do) Something like this would be worth investigation...
        • Re:Tinnitus (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @03:00AM (#4935002)
          It is entirely possible that our eyes require very similar forms of calibration, but that we have not even theorized the existence(sp?) of such a problem b/c we don't spend nearly as much time watching lossily encoded images as we spend listening to lossily encoded sounds.

          Interestingly, consider this (lifted from here [] but you can find it mentioned in many places via Google []):

          Another example of the brain coming up with better algorithms for doing things, thus showing that many basic brain functions are not hard-wired, involves the use of prism lenses. In an experiment, people are made to wear, for long periods of time, lenses that cause their field of vision to be turned upside down. After a while, the person reports that things have become right side up again. Then, taking off the glasses makes everything upside down. It seems that even this basic fact of how we perceive what is around us is not hard-wired into the brain. Maybe we see right side up because it simplifies the calculations that we need to make in order to perform everyday tasks. Seeing upside down is actually the default, in a certain sense, because the lenses in our eyes turn the received light into an upside down image on our retina. It is the brain that causes the perceived objects to be right side up. The evidence that even this is not hard-wired into the brain is rather interesting, as it indicates that everyone's brain independently and without our conscious knowledge comes to the decision that seeing right side up is the most efficient way to allow performance of daily tasks.

          Fun eh? Makes you think. Possibly calibration of the ears works in a similar way. Presumably if the 'lossy' audio ever became a problem (this is assuming you don't speak to anyone, or make/hear any natural noise for most of the day, of course) then you'd just listen to 'normal' sounds. That's what calibration is, after all.

          By the way, out of interest, here's another interesting write-up about the experiment being done in Japan []. I'm curious to see it was done 'recently', as I remember this experiment being mentioned on TV about 15-20 years ago*.


          * Johnny Ball's 'Think of a Number' for you UK geeks :)

      • Re:Tinnitus (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kynde ( 324134 ) <kynde&iki,fi> on Saturday December 21, 2002 @07:31AM (#4935536)
        Hmm, did you READ the article?

        He says ...

        I read it, and I don't buy a word of it. The grammar is faulty. Lay+out is make-believe at most. Pictures are from some first anatomy book. No references, just some weird hypothesis withou any proofs. Sounds like a hoax if I ever saw one.

        Besides he even fails to mention most Fourier transform based codecs work. They do not even fullfill the persumptions of his hypothesis, because their main size reductions are based on sliced away frequencies outside the scope of our hearing.
    • Re:Tinnitus (Score:5, Insightful)

      by synx ( 29979 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @03:20AM (#4935065)
      YES! I recently noticed that I have low level tinnitus. I recently moved to the US. Concidence? In the US there is much more caffeine in Cola beverages than in Canada. I have been intaking probably 2x more caffeine than I used to. I have noticed in the last few months that I have low low level tinnitus. Any noise is louder than it, including the sound of blood rushing thru my ears. I have yet to quit caffeine, but I think it will help significantly.

      I listen to headphones at resonable volumes, I don't work in industries which have hearing-loss danger, and I don't go to bars or concerts or other loud events very often. My hearing is still great. But this low tinnitus only when its completely and utterly quiet.

      So to respond to the original article: Do you drink cola drinks? Coffee? Try quitting caffeine and maybe your tinnitus will go away. And you can still listen to mp3s.

      PS: If you read medical sites and other tinnitus support sites, they all say that caffeine aggrivates tinnitus because it constricts blood vessels in the ear. Quit caffine!!
  • by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:14PM (#4933742) Homepage

    Knowing them... they might try giving money to help the military research sonic based weapons and get something to fight those pesky pirates!

    Then again I suppose it will also depend on the quality of the speakers, and what frequency range they can properly output (as well as the soundcard and encoded track).

    • No, they'll just add this to their anti-Internet warchest as the "documented dangers of digitally compressed music". Therefore, we must all buy more CDs... won't someone think of the children??
  • by UnAmericanPunk ( 310528 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:14PM (#4933744) Homepage
    I listen to punk and hardcore music, so I don't think it matters what kinda compression is on my music, my hearing is gonna be lost either way!
    • I can vouch for that... I went to a Garbage concert and regretted not moshing like I usually would, so being further back I was in a direct line of the speakers.. I got my hearing back about two days later (and the ear wax production went to normal). Although I'm looking forward to hooking up my brothers DJ mobile speakers, all high quality BOSE with an output for about 3000 people.. but this old house might not have enough juice.

      All we need is the legendary brown noise... and it won't be our hearing we'll be worrying about!

      • by sh4de ( 93527 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:14PM (#4934086)
        > high quality BOSE

        And I thought that was an oxymoron.
        • It is an oxymoron (Score:3, Informative)

          by recursiv ( 324497 )
          > And I thought that was an oxymoron.

          However, Bose, certainly has the market cornered for customers perceiving it to have quality. They do it all with advertising.

          As an analogy for you geeks, it's like Intel's dominance over AMD, despite AMD having a cheaper faster CPU. Intel does it with advertising. Actually there is a difference. Intel makes quality processors. Bose might be passable, but you won't find anyone who knows what they're talking about saying Bose is quality with a straight face. There are nice things you can say about them. Maybe convenient to set up for the average user or something, but not quality speakers.

          In short you are correct.
        • Re:Music type... (Score:3, Informative)

          by pongo000 ( 97357 )
          And I thought that was an oxymoron

          I dunno...I have a pair of Bose 301 speakers pushing 20 years old that are still faithfully reproducing audio without any noticeable distortion. Let's see...I paid $300 for them in 1982...not a bad purchase for an amortized cost of around $15 a year.

          Now, those funky radios they sell, maybe that's another story all together...
          • Re:Music type... (Score:4, Informative)

            by DavittJPotter ( 160113 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @10:42AM (#4935964) Homepage Journal
            In the top 10 design goals of Bose engineers, Sound Quality is NOT on the list. Affordability, appearance, and saleability are.

            If you've heard the "wonderful sound of Bose" because someone told you they were great, consider this. Budweiser is unlikely a fine beer, but it's the "King of Beers" due to superior marketing and brand awareness. Same thing with Bose. They've gotten their name out there, and made people aware. "Big Bass from a small space" does not equate to better sound. Proper speaker construction, good crossovers, and matched drivers *do* contribute to better sound. The fancy-ass "Bose 901's" that some people drool over? They're made up of (9) cheap 5.25" drivers, of which ONE points forward. The rest fire backward to give you the "reflection" of the Direct/Reflection equation, and make the speaker sound bigger. If you like the 'Reflection' theory, try a pair of Definitive Technology's Bi-Polar Power Towers - they'll impress you.

            You want to try some really nice moderately priced speakers? Boston Acoustics, Definitive Technology, and Klipsch are all phenomenal performers without a staggering price tag. Moving up, you've got options that will astound you.

            If you want a good comparison, buy a Bose waveradio. Take it to a stereo dealer who sells the little Sony or Yamaha bookshelves - the Bose sucks in comparison. :) Since you don't have a comparison at the Bose dealer, you can't make a good decision. That's why they do "Outlet Stores" that only sell Bose, so you can't do a good A/B comparison. After you retunn your $500 Bose, spend the difference on some good Guiness. :)

            Remember: "No highs, no lows, must be BOSE!"

  • by DxMaN ( 587019 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:15PM (#4933751)
    'But a continuous consumption of datareduced audio could possibly lead to fatal consequences' How? Why? Nowhere else in the article is even the start of a reason for this statement. I at least expected to see something along the lines of not hearing that semi while crossing the street. Remember, MP3s, along with marijuana, can kill you.
    • by cpaluc ( 559921 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:48PM (#4933975)
      Yeah, i had trouble getting past that too.

      Now have a look at this [] page of his. He appears to think that looking at the colour pink can be dangerous too. How did this stuff manage to get posted? In the pink article he claims to be a "researcher of neuronomy(science about the improvement of the usage of brain and nervous system)". Neuronomy? That's gotta be bogus. Anyone?

      • by whee ( 36911 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:02PM (#4934033)
        I'm a researcher in the neuromechanomy field, and I have found similar results in my studies. While I am not an expect in neuronomy, my research indicates that people get irritated when you place large pink sunglasses on them. I have found that requiring them to wear pink shoes also leads to irritability. Therefore, I have concluded that the color pink should be banned from all public places, much like smoking is beginning to be.

        As a side-note, my neuromechanomy studies have led me to a potentially disastrous discovery: gravity is the leading cause of death. Preliminary studies involving rodents support my theory -- many died within minutes of being placed in a centrifuge. Therefore, I propose that mankind be fitted with antigravity suits, so that life will not be hindered by the harmful effects of gravity. It's amazing how long the human race has survived with a daily, constant exposure of this magnitude.
    • You must have missed the bits about the RIAA death squads.
    • I agree; the article doesn't really come right out and say it, but it's implied in the opening paragraphs (kind of poor form for a scientific paper if you ask me, but I wasn't really expecting much from a paper with scanned-in diagrams of the ear from a middle-school textbook). Anyways, the article doesnt' really say that MP3/digital audio causes hearing loss, it says that it causes hearing damage, as in damage to our ability to hear effectively. The author states that digital codecs work by removing parts of the audio signal that wouldn't be passed on to the conscious brain. However, these high and low frequencies may help the ear to calibrate and pass the signals along to the braing properly.

      Basically, I think he was saying that digital audio can cause the ear to "go out of tune". On that note (no pun intended, I swear), I think he's kind of full of crap...of all the sounds that we are exposed to every day, digital audio probably makes up way less than 5%, if that. I can't imagine that it would make a significant difference one way or the other.

      On top of that, he really presents no evidence one way or the other about this theory. At least he acknowledges it's only a hypothesis. Perhaps some research will be done on this in the future.
  • by acehole ( 174372 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:15PM (#4933756) Homepage
    Tv ruins your brain, mobiles give you cancer, junk food makes you fat, computer monitors ruin your eyes and now they say mp3s cause hearing loss.

    Is there anything left that wont slowly kill or mame you over time? They wont be happy until I'm sitting in a darkened padded room eating a liquid only diet.
  • speculation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:16PM (#4933759) Journal
    The author presents only speculation, no evidence or mechanism. In fact there is a barely concealed paranoid rant about the mass media and DRM. By now MP3s are in sufficiently wide use that real hearing problems should be noticeable, yet I am aware of no studies or other complaints showing this to be the case. At worst, this is probably a "cell phones / power lines cause cancer" type nonissue.
    • However, your willingness to dismess out of hand the, shall we call it, intuition, of someone who is clearly at least educated both in the anatomy of hearing and the signals-processing fundamentals, is just as baseless.

      Of course, given a critical evaluation of the text itself, dismissal is a good guess. There are a lot of red flags there, especially at the end. Certainly, it's not clear to me what calibratory function the signals otherwise masked by psychoacoustic (or neuroacoustic, as the author says) compression might serve - this is the most important part of the theory, and there's no real attempt by the author to treat it in detail. But (self-consciously) little sketches like this, many of which by students with even less coherence or credibiliy, are often a prelude to important discoveries, good and bad.

      If I were a betting man, I would confidently bet you were right. But just the same, I hope a few members of the medical community (I think this would take a background in neurolobiology/cog. sci/audiology) see this, and at least consider it. You could probably devise a relatively inexpensive animal study or two that could safely close off this kind of speculation.
      • by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:11PM (#4934078) Journal
        However, your willingness to dismess out of hand the, shall we call it, intuition, of someone who is clearly at least educated both in the anatomy of hearing and the signals-processing fundamentals, is just as baseless.

        Please tell me this is sarcasm.
        This guy did little more than quote a college biology book, and scan the pictures to create a web site. On first reading the article I thought to myself, "funny, it doesn't feel like April first."
        Also, even if we give this guy the benefit of doubt for a moment, there is still nothing to worry about. When was the last time you listened to MP3's and/or video games in a completely soundless environment for an extended period of time? Last few times I did it, I was at home with the refidgerator humming away, a few computer fans whirring, my chair creaking occasionally, simply put, I had lots of background noise for my ears to filter out, without my speakers adding to it. Sure, I would love to put a sensory depravation tank around my computer when playing Thief, it can really blow yuor concentration when your roomate bursts out in laughter 3 feet away from you while reading his email. But, I don't have one, and so am bombarded with small, often inaudiable sounds.

        If I were a betting man, I would confidently bet you were right. But just the same, I hope a few members of the medical community (I think this would take a background in neurolobiology/cog. sci/audiology) see this, and at least consider it. You could probably devise a relatively inexpensive animal study or two that could safely close off this kind of speculation.

        There are far better things for that money to be spent researching. Don't waste it on junk like this.

    • Analogy to vision.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by robbo ( 4388 ) <<slashdot> <at> <>> on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:08PM (#4934062)
      Yes, there's something strange about this article.. it starts off with some interesting stuff, and then some reasonable speculation, and then degrades into some pseudo-religious political rant about DRM and the music industry.

      As I read this I couldn't help but thing about RGB displays. The visual world is populated by a wide spectrum of photons of different frequencies, but due to our anatomy, our sensitivity peaks at three wavelengths, approximately red, green and blue. The entire color TV and video industry exploits this fact and achieves huge amounts of compression by transmitting three signals at these peak wavelengths. While I recognize that there are some certain mechanical elements in hearing, it seems to me that if this guy's arguments are sound, then we would have observed similar effects from watching TV-- that the absence of unperceived wavelengths would cause damage. Of course we all recognize that TV's bad for your health, but I don't think it causes the kind of damage he's alluding to.
    • ndex.html

      Check out his "biography."

      He's a "cyberyogi," a teacher of "logology." Uh.. yeah. From his site:

      Logologie is a religion of reason; it is free of devilization and has many things common with Buddhism, but unlike this it includes a much more detailed understanding of the physical interaction between consciousness and the nervous system. Main goal of Logologie is the preservation and development of the human race by enabling it to sovereignous- holistical thinking and the overcoming of causing sufferance, because due to the network of cosmic consciousness everything is connected with everything and sufferance therefore never exists separately.

      I am a cyberage-child - born in the year of Pong, and I study software- techniques at the German technical college Fachhochschule Hamburg (which unfortunately consumes the major amount of my time).

      I am researcher of neuronomy and consciousness physics. (Neuronomy is the science of the improvement of the usage of brain and nervous system.) I collect historical videogames and homecomputers, I enjoy to build and repair electronic things and I am interested in electronic musics, synthesizer technology and everything that makes unusual (mostly electronic) sounds. I also compose own musics (e.g. like tekkno- trance, meditational musics etc.) and like to write poems and short stories etc. (e.g. SF), paint computer graphics and I am generally very interested in art and philosophy.

      Uh.. yeah. Sounds credible to me.

  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Phil Wilkins ( 5921 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:17PM (#4933771)
    "which would make the human of the cyberage even more insensitive than he already yet has become by the continuous mass media infotrash bombardment he is exposed to."

    Ohhh Kay then...

    Think I'll wait till someone with a smidgen of credibility has something to say.

  • This is FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by seizer ( 16950 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:17PM (#4933774) Homepage
    I've only speed-read the article, but it's painfully obvious that this chap is spreading FUD.

    The crux of his argument is that because the psychoacoustic model of hearing allows us to remove some frequencies, the ear will no longer calibrate itself correctly for "real" sounds. Wild conjecture, with no backup. Then he grumbles a little bit about his games using lossy codecs, and finally blames his own tinnitus on these games.

    A bit of a loose argument, I have to say.
    • Re:This is FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:29PM (#4933861)
      "The crux of his argument is that because the psychoacoustic model of hearing allows us to remove some frequencies, the ear will no longer calibrate itself correctly for "real" sounds. Wild conjecture, with no backup. "

      From what he says, the only way that MP3s could damage hearing is if ONLY that type of compressed data could be heard at all times. As long as there are other things to hear (like the world outside of your headphones...) then there's no reason for the ear not to calibrate itself.

      It's kind of like saying that apples are dangerous. Your stomach digests apples in a different way than when it digests meat. Eventually, the body will get used to digesting apples and not remember how to eat meat. So, when you finally do eat meat, your body will not know how to digest it. I don't eat apples very often. One day, I ate an apple and then I ate meat, and I had an upset stomach.
    • For more FUD, read the same guy's discussion of why pink [] (yes, the color pink) can hazardous as well.

      Or, you might want to try his discussion of conscious computers []. My favorite quote:

      "The body is a terminal in the network of cosmic consciousness. Each individual brain produces a unique vibration pattern(the SIS-Struct) by that it acesses a certain address space in the non-spacetimely network of cosmic consciousness which though becomes the individual consciousness of the person."
      • Looks like another mis-adjusted computer geek. Lookup his name in Google Groups [].. and he claims he studies neurology (to back up his claim about pink and MP3) at his college, I wonder what his prof thinks of him? Dunno, if I were his prof, his GPA would be a (-1, Troll).
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:17PM (#4933775) Homepage Journal
    The author of the article seems to lack any relevant qualifications, any proof of his ideas, or indeed basic proofreading abilities.

    He does say that CDs are overpriced though, so it must be worth posting on Slashdot.
  • what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nuckin futs ( 574289 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:20PM (#4933804)
    can you hear me now?
  • Does this mean that the RIAA will be seeding P2P networks with MP3s that contain the subliminal message "buy this CD, buy this CD"?

    And I believe that listening to boy-bands will give you tinitus even if you keep the volume way down and wear ear-plugs. That's the price you have to pay for having really bad taste.

  • Lovely logic... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:22PM (#4933814)
    " I have however some computer games with MP3 music, but I don't excessively play them. Despite I listen to music only quietly, I have repeatedly tinitus (and thus I also suspect the data reduction in radio and TV broadcasts as a cause)"

    This guy seemed intelligent all the way up to the point where he wrote that particular line. If it only took that little of exposure to lossy sound caused him to have tinitus, then why aren't people by the millions complaining of hearing problems? I'm quite surprised he'd attribute his hearing problems to his hypothesis. I think it is far more likely there are other causes of his problems.

    I also don't think, from what I've read here, that we're in any real danger of suffering noticable hearing damage from MP3s. The the main reason is that we don't listen to just MP3s 24 hours a day. Not even close! We'll be surrounded by compressed sound for years to come, but it'll never replace the natural every day sounds we hear all the time. Right now, as I write this, I can hear things happening all around me that definitely are not digital. As long as that noise is there, I can't imagine that our brain would focus in on the compressed sound itself.

    It's an interesting hypothesis, but it doesn't hold up against real world data.
  • I must just note, as others have, that there is a reason that peer reviewed, scientific journals exist. When a doctor does study this, get it reviewed and published and the confirmed by other studies (or maybe after extensive meta-analysis) I might begin to believe it.

    YESTERDAY: eggs make you live 20 extra years--eat a lot
    TODAY: eggs will kill you
    TOMORROW: eggs will make you live 30 extra years--eat a lot.

    Ha. Medical science.
  • From the Article: "Unlike with compression and decompression of computer programs (e.g. ZIP), that is to say, during lossy data compression (data reduction) the original signal is not reconstructed 1:1, but to reduce the data amount, only control signals for a synthesizer programs (called CODEC) get recorded, those are optimized in a way that during rendition the CODEC can reconstruct from these an approximation of the original picture or sound signal that appears as similar as possible for the human conscious perception, but is not identical to the original signal."

    Translated to English:

    Lossy compression loses some of the data,
  • This has gotta be more FUD from the record industry to try to reduce the threat of mp3's. Think about it. Telephones have been digitizing and sampling voice for over 40 years. You don't here people saying that will make you deaf. CD's are samples of the real analog signal, do they destroy your hearing? Hell, just about everything you hear coming out of a machine is fake, digitized, sampled, compressed in some form it is all lossy. So, should we all go back to live acoustic concerts to save our ears?
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:26PM (#4933836) Homepage Journal
    The article used jpeg compression on the pictures, I'll never be able to see properly again!
    • Well with all those pictures us geeks are sterotyped as always looking at, we're heading for blindness anyway (along with hairy palms) ;-)

    • The article used jpeg compression on the pictures, I'll never be able to see properly again!

      You know, JPEG compression and MP3 compression aren't that dissimilar. The only major difference is that in MP3, the quantizer changes from one sound frame to the next, while in JPEG the quantizer is static. Both techniques ultimately work by identifying which subbands are least important, and throwing them away.

      So if human visual perception of high-frequency spatial variations depended on some sort of autocalibration, then we all might be going blind from looking at JPEGs.

      But since we're not, I have even more doubt about this guy's claims.

  • As several other posters have pointed out, this guy is full of shit. He reminds me of the sort of people who call in to the Art Bell show [].

    If anything, my hearing has gotten better since I started listening to MP3s. I remember when I first started encoding my CDs, I couldn't tell the difference between 128kb CBR MP3s and the CD source. I can't even fathom how I was able to believe that; I encode everything with LAME's r3mix [] preset now.
  • It says, basically "Listening to music with lots of information removed may be bad for your brain's neural filtering hardware. But on the other hand, it also hurts the music industry, which is good since CDs are over-priced."
  • I can see how, with *great* amounts of extrapolation, this might present a problem after prolonged periods of time in an isolated environment which *only* contained the offending constructions.

    On the other hand, you could take your freakin' headphones off every so often, scrappy.

    When listening to music, music isn't the only thing you hear. There's plenty of background noise going on. The fact that it gets filtered out so's you can listen to your tunes seems to indicate that the sensitive "circuitry" in your head is actually working just fine.

    This article seems to be an idealized application of a half-baked problem.

    But then, I'm no high-falootin' science guy.
  • Pr0n makes you go blinde...

    MP3 makes you go deaf...

    We're running out of things to do online. ...

    Seriously, though. In the article it mentions how the sound waves have been changed and lack certain intereference frequencies that our ears normally 'filter out' and how that process doesn't happen with MP3 since the sound is already gone. What I'm wondering is if ALL artificial sound (MIDI, Electronic sythesis [think SID music, MODs, etc]) doesn't also lack these frequencies? Sound samples would have the full range, but simple wave-forms generated electronically wouldn't. After all, those sounds aren't full range and they would also inherently lack the natural "interferences" discussed in the article.

    My point is -- if they say MP3s are bad for your hearing, the should also say that electronica music, some video games, some electronic devices, and just about anything that produces sound now days could be potentially harmful to our ears.
  • is this. []
  • by _iris ( 92554 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:31PM (#4933881) Homepage
    I believe when MPEG decoders process an MPEG stream they recreate approximations of the sound (rather than leave them out, which is what the author seems to believe). Therefore, listening to MPEG-encoded audio is like listening to a CD with bad speakers. So by this reasoning, Dell and Gateway are slowing killing us all with those horrible speakers they ship with their PCs ;]
  • As you read through it the paper seems to go downhill in regards to both believability & grammar. To be honest, this has the feel of a college essay with a little too much BS (which I've written a few of myself); the diagrams are neither referenced within the paper, nor especially informative.

    Eventually, the paper does acknowledge that this is something to look into, not a reason to ban MP3s (& DVDs, & digital TV, & ...) as it sounds at first.
    Actually it is still unclear whether the consequences of such maladjustments are only temporary ... or if the continuous consumption of neuroacoustically datareduced sounds can lead to long lasting or even permanent damage.

    The second to last paragraph is devoted to basically saying that the author is not against MP3s, which is a good idea for reducing the flamebait of this essay. But then the essay ends with the alarming (& rather unbelievable) statement:
    But here definitely exists acute research need, therefore I request hereby all politicians and neuroacoustics scientists to be concerned with the danger potential of neuroacoustic data reduction...

    Now, I'll agree that MP3s aren't perfect; I'll get "sick" of them every so often (when they sound to feel tinny & empty) & have to listen to some CDs or other media... But I'd have to imagine that the scratches most tapes & records have are more damaging than the acuoustic gaps an MP3 has. I can't comment on OOG because I don't use it; my portable MP3 player can't play them, so it would be inefficient to use them.

    However, it is an interesting idea to try filling the gaps via interpolating the surrounding frequencies. I'd be curious if this has been done before, and how it sounds.
  • by autarkeia ( 152712 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:32PM (#4933892) Homepage
    This sort of thing has been going on for over a hundred years now. Photographs don't provide a perfect representation of the subject; they're a scaled-down analog version that's good enough to fool the eye. The same thing can be said of any data transmission-- the quality of a phone conversation is much lower than what the human ear can perceive.

    Furthermore, television, movies, and computer monitors are based on persistence of vision-- the idea that the eye and brain can be fooled into perceiving motion if the pictures are switched fast enough (in the case of NTSC TV, 30 frames per second). This is a significant "compression" of the data, far larger than the amount of data being thrown out by psychoacoustic compression. NASA uses cameras that record 10,000 fps to examine explosions and things of that nature that occur far too fast for us to perceive.

    Reality occurs at a rate that technology currently finds impossible to record in full. That doesn't mean it's damaging us.

  • If health of hearing depends on owning a perfectly realistic electronic sound system, then we should all be deaf by now because there is no such thing. Even the best systems - DVDA, DTS 6.1 - have good fidelity but still have extremely poor directionality compared to real life. The next time you're in someplace noisy, close your eyes and try to figure out where everything is just by listening. In a movie it's impossible, even with the best sound systems, but in real life it's easy.
  • ... (which seems quite unlikely), it would be possible to introduce random masked sounds during playback to counter the effect.
  • I hate to be negative, but I don't think this really belongs in the Science section. Do we have a Postulate Wildly section?

    The mini-rant against the RIAA almost sounds like it was just added to ensure publication on Slashdot, since it has nothing to do with audio compression effects.
  • "continuous consumption of datareduced audio could possibly lead to fatal consequences"

    I always knew the Britney Spears, boy band crap stuffed into every p2p and newsgroup would be the end of me. I guess Metallica wins in the end with "Kill 'em All."
  • ...there could be another reason [] why he has tinnitus.

    I find it amusing that he says: 'I am interested in "zoner" games, i.e. certain monotonous high speed skill games those are capable to create alterated states of mind.' - but remember, don't listen to mp3s cos they'll make you go deaf :)


    PS. No, I'm not saying video games affect your hearing - just that it's about as likely as lossy audio codecs being the problem.

  • by Insanity ( 26758 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:39PM (#4933932)
    Scroll to the bottom and you'll find that this is written by "CYBERYOGI Christian Oliver(=CO=) Windler, (teachmaster of LOGOLOGIE - the first cyberage-religion!)."

    This looks like one of many crackpot "religions" based on a few scientific terms and some mystical psychobabble. These are people that believe microwave radiation or EMF from power lines slowly poisons your soul, the world is coming to an end becuase of evil american weather control machines, the aliens have visited us from dimension Z, the ancient Mayan calendar is the key to all knowledge, astrology is a real and important force in our lives, and so forth.

    Mix varying amounts of scientific-sounding nonsense, mysticism with references to eastern religions, profound realizations about the nature of space and time, and maybe a few terms like "asymptotically" to really fill the minds of morons with awe and fear, and you have yourself a religion [], or more appropriately, a cult [].

  • The article is an interesting read, but there seems to be one major flaw. If loud noises cause resonance, then there will still be something for our ears to filter out while listening to MP3 music.
  • It would be nice if he supplied some experimental evidence in support of his claims. (Be sure to check out the rest of his web site, so you can learn about the dangers of pink light, too.)

    I do wonder, though, what he means by "white" science...
  • Who funded this? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BrainInAJar ( 584756 )
    Is this yet another ploy by the RIAA to eliminate mp3?

    "Don't steal music. Or you'll go deaf. Then die."
  • I bet they recieved money from the RIAA to 'study' this concept. Hmmmmm I can see it now "An RIAA supported study has shown that mp3's make your ears fall off"

    Right, whatever.
  • This isn't bad for a highschooler. Once he learns scientific method he might contribute to real knowledge. In the meantime this sort of theorizing keeps kids' neurons limber.
  • Wow.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dh003i ( 203189 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:55PM (#4934004) Homepage Journal
    Wow, the editors of Slashdot accepted this bullshit but rejected 20 or so of my submissions? At least I wasn't full of shit.

    This is just ridiculous bull crap. So is the brief mention of "subliminal messages". Normally, I would elaborate further and explain, but on this I think not. Anyone stupid enough to not immediately realize that this is bullshit is beyond reason anyways.
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @09:57PM (#4934014) Homepage Journal

    From the author's web page:

    Warning: Pink can be dangerous for health! [] about the stress generating, sick making and learn- hindering effect of long exposure to pink in the viewfield

    I sure am glad someone is finally focusing on these severe health risks! Where are the Surgeon General's warnings about the risks inherent in MP3s and the color Pink? Why isn't CNN covering this?

    I mean, it's obvious that pink must be bad for you -- just look at the grammar in the abstract. The author is obviously a severe sufferer of pinkitis, poor man.

    • Hackers rejoice! Your expensive Mt. Dew, Dr. Pepper and Starbucks habbits can now be replaced by the color pink!

      From the webpage cited in the parent post:

      When the man artificially gets exposed to a pink viewfield,the same waking archprogram gets executed and sets free stress hormons.If the exposure lasts for a too long time,lots of stress hormons are setted free,causing a similar effect as consuming too much coffee,cigarettes or any other wakening drugs;the man doesn't get waker anymore but feels exhausted and even more weak and ti- red,because this maladjustment of his body cybernetics hinders his brain from cleaning up itself.An exposure to a red viewfield starts a similar,but weaker program,because red appears in the daylight sequence at morning and evening too,but for a longer time.

      Just think of the money you'll save! I am still trying to perfect the process of "artificial exposure" to the color pink. Maybe if I change the backgroung color of my code editor from white to pink that will be "artificial exposure". I am not sure what the effects of natural exposure to pink are. Since they are still unknown I suggest that you all avoid any natural pink for now.

    • by geek ( 5680 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:12PM (#4934082)
      Certain colors do have effects on you. Why are all padded cells white? It's calming.

      Why are most hallways tope? It's soothing.

      Bright colors give us an "open" feel in rooms while dark ones close us in.

      Yellow is an alerting color, which is why it's used in stop lights, as is red. Colors do effect us in certain ways.

      Example, drunk driver sees cop car on the side of the road with it's red blinking lights. Drunk driver can't remove focus from them and crashes into cop car. It happens almost every day in the U.S. Is it because of the color of the lights? Blue lights have proven to have a different effect. Maybe it's just that their flashing? Flashing blue lights had a different effect.

      Anyway, the guy seems like a crack pot, but colors can effect us in minimal ways. Very minimal however.
    • I think this fellow has a problem separating cause, effect, aftereffect...

      If you wear pink-tinted sunglasses (such as some of those Ray-Ban types) the eye adjusts and after a while you don't see the pink so much. And when you first take them off, everything looks green for a few minutes (which also screws up your depth perception). But the eye and brain quickly figure out what's what, and your colour and depth vision soon return to normal. There's certainly no permanent damage; if there were, we'd have millions of lawsuits over it.

      Anyway, appears either he's got some peculiar ideas about what constitutes research, or he's severely good at leg-lengthening ;)

  • "Possible consequences of intensive consumption of datareduced audio material could therefore include ... a general degradation of the perception of quiet sounds, as well as a worsened timbre perception (a so-called "tin ear"), which would make the human of the cyberage even more insensitive than he already yet has become by the continuous mass media infotrash bombardment he is exposed to."

    While I don't buy all of his ideas, it sounds plausible that the "simplified" music may desensitize our hearing. Of course audiophiles and the like will never accept compressed music, but it will be harder to introduce your typical person to classical music and its fine nuances, if their idea of music is dumbed-down thrash. Then again, the pop industry is probably more to blame than audio codecs.

  • Since he used pretty little graphics in the article.
  • by Vegan Pagan ( 251984 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:05PM (#4934046)
    ...then before electronic sound systems were invented, everyone was deaf. Therefore Beethoven wasn't the only deaf composer, the history books just say he is to make him look good!

    ...then everybody only heard mono before stereo was invented.

    ...then there was no math before the Babbage machine. Thus, Pythagoras, Archimedes and Newton are frauds.

    ...then video game players couldn't hear human voices before the mid 1990s because games didn't have much speech before CD-ROM.

    ...there is no such thing as depth perception because TV is still 2D. Thus no one is qualified to drive a car, or at least the people who watch TV aren't. Nor are Slashdot readers, I'm afraid.

    Calvin and Hobbes has evidence that the same thing happened to color vision:

    Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn't they have color film back then?

    Dad: They sure did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It's just the world was black and white then.

    Calvin: Really?

    Dad: Yap. The world didn't turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while there, too.

    Calvin: That's really weird.

    Dad: Well, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Calvin: But then why are old paintings in color?! If the world was black and white, wouldn't artists have painted it that way?

    Dad: Not necessarily, a lot of great artists were insane.

    Calvin: But... but how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn't their paints have been shades of gray back then?

    Dad: Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the '30s.

    Calvin: So why didn't old black and white photos turn color too?

    Dad: Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?

    [Calvin leaves, meets Hobbes]

    Calvin: The world is a complicated place, Hobbes.

    Hobbes: Whenever it seems that way, I like to nap in a tree and wait for dinner.
  • by bozoman42 ( 564217 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:08PM (#4934061) Homepage
    This just out: the reading of scientific articles in a language almost resembling English, but not quite, can cause serious mental stress according to non-citeable sources.

    This effect seems magnified if subjects have been sitting in front of CRT all day reading headline websites and not generally excercising their physical body in any way.

    (BTW-Tongue firmly in cheek, no offense meant to these researchers in any way.)

  • downhill (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trance9 ( 10504 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:11PM (#4934074) Homepage Journal

    I stopped reading after he started going on about dictators slipping propaganda into the inaudible cracks in your media.

    And it started off with such promising analysis! I bet the slashdot moderators didn't read to the bottom of the article before approving it.
  • by Kiwi ( 5214 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:18PM (#4934096) Homepage Journal
    This article is obviously written by someone working for the RIAA trying to get people to start listening to CDs and stop listening to MP3s any more.

    In fact, the newer formats, such as DSM (SACD), have so many more frequenceis, that listening to these formats will, in fact, improve your hearing. So, everyone, listen to SACDs instead of normal CDs. beecause even CDs may cause brain damage.

    Never mind the fact that SACDs are copy-protected 15 different ways, and that our methods for copy-protecting normal CDs have been shown to be ineffective. We want people to listen to SACDs for, well, their hearing.

    Again: Do not listen to MP3s! they only damage your hearing (and promote bands which are not approved by us).

    - the RIAA
  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:23PM (#4934116) Homepage
    By this logic jpegs damage your eyes.. You'll go BLIND... BLIND...BLIND I sez..

    Maybe only because what your doing while veiwing those jpegs..

  • by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:29PM (#4934141) Journal
    This is probably a bit of a stretch, but it's true...

    While reading this story, ironically enough, I played an MP3 I had downloaded from Gnucleus (a Gnutella client) using a multi-host download. One of the hosts seems to have been one of the RIAA servers that sends out static; for a few seconds in the middle of the song, there's this horrible (loud) clicking and popping. I have no desire to be the one to try it, but how cool would it be if I sued them for damage to my ears (when listening to the MP3 I downloaded from them) and won. It's actually not as ridiculous as it might sound -- if I steal a candy bar, and it turns out to have cyanide and razor blades in it, I'm almost positive that I could still sue / file criminal charges -- you can't 'booby trap' things if they cause injury.

    As I said, it's a stretch, but I'd love to see the RIAA ordered to pay a tremendous fine for causing hearing loss / damage to speakers.

  • by ez76 ( 322080 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @10:33PM (#4934158) Homepage
    Possible consequences of intensive consumption of datareduced audio material could therefore include ear noises (tinitus), a general degradation of the perception of quiet sounds, as well as a worsened timbre perception (a so-called "tin ear"), which would make the human of the cyberage even more insensitive than he already yet has become by the continuous mass media infotrash bombardment he is exposed to.

    So it must be the author's contention that glaring irony doesn't compress well and so intensive consumption of his infotrash is juuuuust fine.
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @12:30AM (#4934513)

    Just go to the above... The guy is a proponent of "logologie" "religion from the cybertime" (sic). The other article are nice too, like the one about natrium glutamate in cantine food ("nervengift"...). There is nothing to see there, just an Informatik Student in hamburg having fun (heck he isn't even a neurologue !) : Quote : Ich bin ein Kind des Cyberzeitalter, geboren im Jahre des Pong, und ich studiere Softwaretechnik an der Fachhochschule Hamburg (was leider den Großteil meiner Zeit kostet).

    I am a child of the Cybertimes, born the same year than Pong, and I study Programming (software technic?) in the Highschool (not university something else) Hamburg (which cost me the biggest aprt of my time).

    Move along, ntohing to see here.
  • Don't RTFA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @01:30AM (#4934761)
    Well, OK, I'll admit, it was an interesting read for me (an ex biologist / scientist). But for the masses, you can either RTFA, or the following summary:

    MP3's and other lossy compression (loss of quality through compression) methods change the distribution of frequencies along the sound spectrum, and maybe, just maybe, because nobody has proven otherwise, it might be the case that this can possibly have permanent effects on one's hearing. Maybe. Possibly. We dont really know. Neither do you. Or so we might think. Maybe. Oh yeah - here are a bunch of pictures from a biology textbook that look really cool, but are only connected to our speculation in a weak tangential unscientific way. Maybe.

    . I haven't heard so many maybe's and 'might be the case' equivalents since the last 'In Search Of' marathon. And the article didn't even have Spock. .
  • like Mark Levinson (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @04:19AM (#4935189) Homepage Journal
    The High End amplifier designer Mark Levinson has similar opinions about CD sound, if I'm not mistaken. Levinson has more to lose from being labelled a loony- he runs a business- so he's cagier about it.

    It's like this: the ear is able to pull a lot of information out of natural, acoustic sound. There's regular features to such sounds that are distinctly different from plain random noise. The ear can dig into the random noise very deeply to get information out.

    What these guys are saying is this: with certain types of distortion, the noise becomes opaque, the information just ain't there when the ear tries to dig for it. Soon it stops trying- or just gets out of practice. It atrophies.

    There are a few points that are established (some recently) to support this, though the whole chain of evidence isn't there, and in fact it's a bit alarmist.

    (1) Ears do adjust. If your hearing isn't symmetrical, your brain WILL construct a coherent picture from the sound field, despite the ear inputs not matching.
    (2) Digital noise floors are NOT the same as natural white noise.

    That last helps to support these wilder theories, but nobody that I know of had tested it until recently. I got in an argument on Usenet where I had to establish this. The argument was that dithering and truncation produced a noise floor different from the same signal with exactly equivalent white noise overlaid onto it. Basically, that quantization can be heard as a distinct character to the noise floor.

    I had people very huffy about me even arguing this, because their digital audio theory demanded that dithered digital was perfect in every respect, and specifically that it behaved the same as analog noise w.r.t. detail retrieval beneath the noise floor.

    I was given matching files- one being signal plus random-amplitude noise, and one being the same thing but quantized to the level of the noise, resulting in a normal TPDF noise floor, entirely uncorrelated. There was a 2 bit and a 4 bit example for me to try, because I was arguing that this difference was obvious at coarse levels, not that I could consistently hear it at 16 bits or something.

    I did a computer ABX double-blind test, using both the examples, and got 40 out of 40 trials correct, establishing beyond reasonable doubt that these types of noise DO sound different. It's not even subject to debate anymore- that's what ABX is for- not asserting a negative but proving a positive beyond serious doubt. Dithered noise floors measure a lot like broad-band noise, and they may be uncorrelated, but they are absolutely not the same as simple random-amplitude noise (like you use for the dither signal prior to quantization).

    I'm not aware of anyone doing this test before, but now it's been done and the point proved.

    I am inclined to agree with the lunatic fringe here that it's the results of these very 'unnatural' processes which cause problems- they damage musical enjoyment, and they're part of why modern music is so commodified and worthless. The only serious mass media formats are prone to these problems. As a result, mass media itself seems less important- a self-destroying process. The sound alone contributes to a lessening of interest.

    That said- anyone who had their hearing actually damaged by this effect would have to either live in an anechoic chamber or wear Walkman headphones every waking moment. The world is FULL of acoustic sounds- hell, traffic alone is an acoustic sound quite capable of 'recalibrating' the ear, and any face-to-face human contact often involves sound, which also 'recalibrates' the ear. So the alarmism is entirely foolish. Maybe Mark Levinson lives in an environment entirely free of any outside sound, I don't know :)

  • Pseudoscience (Score:3, Informative)

    by xiphmont ( 80732 ) on Sunday December 22, 2002 @03:10AM (#4939545) Homepage
    I'm not going to flame here because it sounds like the author means well, OTOH, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This one frankly belongs on the same list as UFO coverups and Flouride Conspiracies. He doesn't indicate any in-depth knowledge of what he's writing about, just the kind of layman-level understanding psychosomatics get when they scare themselves silly reading anatomy texts.

    Perhaps our author really is state-of-the-art, but I see nothing in his article to indicate that. Everything cited can be found in beginner's texts on the subject. Nor is anything cited particularly relevant to his conclusions.

    Let's not forget that the CD itself is a 'data reduced' sampling of a real world signal, at best an approximation of the original. And so was vinyl. I don't see many claims that the harsh approximations of the 33 1/3 LP are damaging ears by the very nature of their artifical reproduction... Unless, of course, you play them too loud :-) Volume can certainly damage.

    Living in a modern city, it's nearly impossible to not end up with some level of permanent tinnitus, and it worsens with age. However, there's an interesting paradox here: Background noise is required for the auditory system to function properly. Perfect dead silence, for prolonged periods, will also damage the auditory system-- through atrophy due to lack of stimulus (an unexpected discovery from a few fascinating experiments)


    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

    "Put down that uninformed pontificating before you poke out an eye"

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan