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Hearing loss is a very common problem is most industrialized countries. According to the Center For Hearing And Communication approximately 12% of people in the United States have significant hearing loss. By the time they reach 65 between 30 to 40% of people will have some form of hearing loss. Given that so many people suffer from hearing loss it is no surprise that the causes are equally diverse. Aging, ear infections, tumors, ear wax build up and head injuries can all lead to hearing loss. But one of the more unusual symptoms of our modern age is the increasing number of young people who are suffering hearing loss due to iPods.
Why iPods Are More Dangerous Than Radios Or Walkmans
We have known for some time that loud noises such as rock music can cause hearing loss. But why our millennial’s at a greater risk of music related hearing loss in previous generations. After all baby boomers and generation X’ers were both big fans of rock music, death metal and grunge. No, this isn’t a problem that can be blamed on rap music or even Miley Cyrus’s “wrecking ball”. The actual culprit are MP3 players such as iPods. IPods send music from headphones directly into the ear canal. This means that they are very good at drowning out other sounds and providing a surround sound listening experience. While CD and Walkman also pose a similar danger, iPods are in a whole new category thanks to technological advances.
How Prolonged Listening Causes Damage
The main reason that iPods are more dangerous is because they can hold thousands of songs. MP3 players can be used for hours on end without ever needing to recharge them. Unlike with the Walkman or CD player the user doesn’t ever have two take out the CD or tape to change it. While this may be convenient it is having a devastating effect on the younger generation’s ears.
Damage to the ear isn’t just about the volume but also the duration that the person is exposed to the sound. Our ears are not designed to be exposed to continuously loud music like that produced by an MP3 player. The sound can damage the delicate hair cells inside of the inner ear which are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain. Research shows that listeners exposed to continuous music for more than eight hours at a time and a level of 85 dB that they will develop hearing loss. Most MP3 players are played at a level well above this. In order to drown out the loud sounds of modern urban life many young listeners have become habituated to playing music at continuously high volumes.
The Effect On Future Generations
The effect of this continued exposure to loud sounds due to iPods and other MP3 players means that the millennial generation can expect to suffer hearing loss in numbers even greater than their parents. For iPod lovers who want to enjoy their music safely, the key is lower volumes and to take a break in between. More education about the dangers posed by MP3 players and stricter regulations may help to limit some of the damage caused by MP3 players.
Jonathan Savage is a freelance writer that writes just about any topic you can think of.
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