iPods and Hearing Loss

Girl listening to ipodIf you have a child or teenager who regularly listens to an iPod or other MP3 player, those many hours they spend attached to dangling earbuds can actually be damaging their hearing. You need to take steps now to protect them from potential hearing loss in the future.

The dangers of MP3 players

Three factors of MP3 players affect hearing:
  • Volume level. Sounds louder than 80-85 decibels are potentially dangerous to your hearing, and exposure to sounds above 90-95 decibels for extended periods of time causes hearing loss. At maximum volume, iPods put out music at up to 120 decibels, about as loud as a jet taking off.
  • Type of headphone. Because the earbud headphones that typically come with iPods and other mp3 players are placed directly into the ear, they can boost the sound signal by as much as six to nine decibels.
  • Length of time used.  With batteries that last up to 12 hours and storage for hundreds of songs, iPod players can hook themselves up and listen to music for hours at a time. At moderate volume levels, this length of time will likely not cause any damage. But at 100-105 decibels, hearing damage can occur in eight to 15 minutes.
Protect your children’s hearing
If your children are iPod lovers, follow these guidelines to protect your child from hearing loss:
  • Make sure your children set the volume level at no more than 70-80% of maximum.
  • Buy your children a set of noise-isolating or sound-canceling earphones with custom sleeves. These may not be as stylish or cool as earbuds, but they will block out background noise so your children will be able to set their volume lower.
  • Limit how many hours your children listen to their iPod or MP3 player. With the volume at 70-80% of maximum, you child can safely listen for about an hour a day. If they want to listen longer, tell them they need to turn the volume down even more: with the volume set at or below 50% of maximum, they should be able to listen for as long as they like without causing hearing damage.
  • Have your children’s hearing tested regularly by a licensed audiologist. Visit the audiologist sooner if you notice any changes to your children’s hearing. During the test, ask about ways to reduce your children’s risk of hearing loss.

 iPods and other mp3 players are like any other consumer device: if your children use them in a risky manner, they will damage themselves. But if you set guidelines and follow safety precautions, you can protect your children’s hearing from this danger.

Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.

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