IpodsTM & mp3s, Pleasure or Pain?


Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*
Latest posts by Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS* (see all)

We see them everywhere today, at home, in schools, churches, offices and at the mall. They’re used for everything from transcribing dictation, taking in an important meeting or enjoying your favorite music or TV show or video and it’s a sure bet that young people are some of the biggest users of them.

There’s no doubt they can be quite convenient and a huge distraction from everyday monotony. However there’s a growing body of evidence to support the concerns of hearing health professionals as to the long term, and even short term, negative effects the continued use and/or abuse of these devices can have, especially as it concerns young people.

In a post on the Better Hearing Blog guest blogger, Chris Evans of Atrium Legal Service  has this to say:

In the 50’s people said Rock and Roll was evil and they may have been right! There are raised worries about hearing loss in young people. This is due to their increased use of mp3 players at high volume.

Young people are more likely to play music louder and for longer periods of time. Research shows that 76% of people listen to music at levels above 85 decibels. Exposure to noise of over 80 decibels can cause permanent damage to your hearing. This is classed as noise induced hearing loss, which is different from the deafness that can occur naturally in old age. If your hearing is affected at work you can make a hearing loss claim for compensation but most young people have nowhere to turn as they are damaging their own hearing.

 That’s not a pleasant reality to have to face but true nonetheless. While we can’t necessarily agree that rock and roll music itself is “evil” it’s the volume levels and duration of use that concerns us as hearing professionals.  Back in the day, at the start of the never ending rock and roll era, while the music was often loud it was confined to radios with small speakers or large group gatherings in auditoriums, etc.

Today’s technology has produced devices that amplify sound at many times the volume levels of years past. Plus the music itself is of a much louder style than kids in the fifties were exposed. With the devices on today’s market, music is blasted directly against the eardrum. Does that have an adverse effect on hearing health? Absolutely!


Mr. Evans goes on to say:

There are people now whose hearing has been permanently damaged due to listening to music too loud and/or for too long. Such is the case that in 2006 a man filed a law suit for hearing loss compensation from Apple, claiming that the corporation neglected to take satisfactory steps to prevent hearing loss for iPod users. The compensation case claimed that the iPod can produce levels of up to 110 dB but the safe level is 85 dB. Apple does have a warning in their user manual but no volume levels are mentioned just ‘high volume.

It is definitely good sense to be aware of the volume levels and duration of use for any in-the ear device you may be using or considering. The table on the right is a guideline on the levels and duration advisable to not exceed each day.

Hearing loss is permanent, period! There is no medical procedure or device that can restore natural hearing once it’s been damaged. There is help however. If you’re one of those folks that damaged your hearing through excessive use of iPods or mp3s be aware there’s no shame in admitting it; you’re in good company and there are many things you can do to help compensate. A great place to start is a hearing evaluation with a licensed, certified hearing professional; many offer them at no charge. Take steps so you can hear decently again – you will be glad you did!


The content contributions of Welsch Hearing Aid Company should not be considered by anyone as a substitute for medical or other hearing health professional diagnosis, treatment, advice, or recommendations.