Thursday, 7 May 2009

Turn It Down! High Volumes Can Damage Hearing in Teens

It’s happened twice in the last 10 days: early in the evening I’ve been downtown and been startled by shouting young men. In both cases, they’ve been white and neatly but casually dressed, getting out of cars or standing on the street, discussing something. There was no fight, no giant television screen nearby showing an exciting sporting event, no apparent reason at all. And the hour was so early that sheer alcohol-fueled exuberance seemed unlikely.

The reason, I’ve decided, was that they were hearing impaired, and have grown accustomed to talking loudly. Too much iPod or Walkman listening, too many hours with ear plugs in and the bass cranked up.

Sound far-fetched? Lee raised his eyebrows skeptically, but the media are now reporting on an article in the medical journal Pediatrics, calling for limits on the decibels that the personal listening devices can deliver.

The researchers found in a study of secondary students in Holland that teens said they often played their MP3 players at maximum volume. They knew that high volumes could create hearing loss, but most said that “they would not accept any interference with their music-exposure habits.” The article suggests that public health campaigns may change attitudes, but manufacturers and governments also have a role to play.

As it happened, on my way home yesterday afternoon—and well before I’d heard news of the article—I sat next to a young woman on the bus who was playing a Walkman so loudly I could clearly hear it too. After 10 minutes of irritation--I found her noise more bothersome than that of a group of fifth graders coming back from a field trip who were also in the bus--I tried to catch her attention, but of course she couldn’t hear me. Finally I tapped her forearm and said, once she’d taken off the ear plugs, that if she was playing music loud enough for me to hear, it was loud enough to severely damage her hearing over time.

“My ears are fine,” she said, huffily, and put her plugs in. But after five minutes—perhaps at the end of the CD—she packed things up and put them in her backpack.

I hope she heard the story on the news this morning— for her own sake and for my own street cred, and for that of cranky old folks everywhere too.


Muzition said...

Blasting iPods is one reason I hate riding the bus. I usually bring earplugs in the bus so I don't have to hear other people's iPods.

Mary Soderstrom said...

Is that a corollary of my sister who used to plug into a Walkman even when the batteries were dead so she didn't have to talk to anyone on the bus?