One in four teenagers is at risk of developing hearing loss at an earlier age because of their use of MP3 players, according to researchers at Tel Aviv University.
The results of their study, published in the International Journal of Audiology, clearly show that teenagers' use of iPods, Smartphones and other MP3 devices can be detrimental to their hearing.
"In 10 or 20 years, it will be too late to realise that an entire generation of young people is suffering from hearing problems much earlier than expected from natural aging,” says Prof. Chava Muchnik at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center.
Hearing loss in their 30's
Teenagers' use of MP3 players subjects them to continuous exposure to loud music, which can lead to slow and progressive hearing loss. People therefore only discover that the damage has been done after many years of loud music through headphones. And by that point, it is too late.
The teenagers who turn their music up too loud will perhaps experience, that their hearing deteriorates as early as their 30's or 40's, and this is much earlier than in earlier generations, warns Prof. Muchnik.
The first part of the study consisted of 289 participants between the ages of 13-17 years. They were asked to answer questions concerning their habits with regards to personal listening devices (PLDs) - more specifically, which volume setting they prefer to listen to music at and how long they listen to music.
In the second part of the study, these volume levels and listening durations were used in a test involving 74 teenagers in both noisy and quiet environments. The measured sound level was used to calculate the potential risk of hearing damage based on the criteria laid out by industrial health and safety regulations.
According to Prof. Muchnik, the study's findings are worrisome. 80% of teens use their PLDs regularly, with 21% listening from one to four hours daily, and 8% listening for more than four hours consecutively. Taken together with the acoustic measurement results, the data indicates that a quarter of the participants are at severe risk of hearing loss.
Need for music risk criteria
Industry-related health and safety regulations are currently the only benchmark for measuring the harm caused by continuous exposure to high volume noise. However, according to Prof. Muchnik, there is a rising need for additional music risk criteria if music-induced hearing loss is to be prevented.
In the meantime, she hopes that manufacturers can incorporate European standards into their products which set a limit of 100dB on MP3 players. At the present time, some MP3 players can play up to 129dB.
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