News Flash: MP3 players can damage hearing

Written by Brett Thomas

September 5, 2006 | 18:24

Tags: #mp3

Everyone brace yourselves: the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has conducted a study on London streets, and they say loud music can hurt your ears. Really? I know, I'm as shocked as you are...common sense tells us that. Or does it? We can't really say (or hear the answer), because it seems the real result of the study is that eight out of every ten people listen to their music at way too high of a volume anyway.

It appears that the "Loud music hurts your hearing" message has fallen on deaf ears. Eighty percent of the music players that RNID tested on London's streets were above 80dBA volume, which is sufficient to damage your hearing permanently. According to the organization, what's worse is that the manufacturers don't even tell you how loud the units go, or how potentially damaging they can get up to. Some units go as high as 105dBA at max volue - for reference, a jet engine at takeoff is 110dBA...and that isn't being blasted through a little speaker right into your ear canal.

Though RNID doesn't directly blame manufacturers for not idiot-proofing their volume setups, the organization does want companies to start helping consumers be more aware of long-term hearing loss. Currently, MP3 players are not required to have any warning label applied to them at all (in either the US or UK) regarding volume levels.

Dr. John Low, Chief Executive of the RNID, had this to say:
"It's clear that young people are not only shockingly unaware of any risk to their hearing, but also that manufacturers aren't yet doing enough to warn people. We want people to be aware of the risks and take control to protect their hearing and are willing to help manufacturers come up with an effective solution to this growing problem."

Personally, I think a lot could be gained from ditching these proprietary volume setups and instead going to a dBA slider, which could then easily display when volumes are at dangerous levels. The current systems seem to lack any ability to make yourself aware of exactly how loud the sound is becoming. How loud is three quarters of a dial?

Have you got a thought on the problem? Let us know in our forums. But speak up, or we may not be able to hear you.
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