14 February 2011

Listening to MP3 players can harm hearing

Listening to an MP3 player at a high volume for an extended period of time can lead to temporary hearing damage. Those are the results of a Belgian study in which a group of people were examined before and after they had been exposed to music. It is still unknown whether this can lead to permanent hearing damage.

In the study, 21 participants aged 19 to 28 years listened to an MP3 player for a maximum of six sessions at varying volume levels using either ear buds or more traditional earphones. A second group of 28 men and women were used as a control group who were not exposed to MP3 music.

Changes in hearing
Researchers evaluated the participants' hearing before and after the experiment via two standardised hearing measurements. They found that participants who listened to MP3 players showed temporary changes in their hearing after listening to one hour of pop-rock music on their portable music devices. The study authors conclude that MP3 players such as iPods are potentially harmful.

“The primary damage is concentrated on the outer hair cells, which are more vulnerable to acoustic over-stimulation than inner hair cells. Considering the reduction in hearing sensitivity after listening to a portable media player, these devices are potentially harmful” said Hannah Kempler, MS, of Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium, who led the study.

Warning from the EU Commission
Surveys have shown that more than 90% of young people in Europe and the U.S. use MP3 players, often for several hours a day at maximum volume. The European Commission has warned that up to 10% of 30-year-olds could have to wear a hearing device within the next decade because they listen to music too loudly through headphones.

Hearing experts recommend the 60/60 rule - listening to MP3 players for no more than 60 minutes at a time at 60% of the maximum volume.

The authors found that further research is needed to evaluate the long-term risk of cumulative recreational noise exposures.

The study was carried out by researchers at Ghent University, Belgium, and is published in the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery Journal.

Sources: www.webmd.com and www.dailymail.co.uk

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