First there was the Walkman – but that was just the warm-up act for the portable music device that has taken over the world. Between the time the iPod was first introduced in October 2001 and 2014, Apple had sold 100 million of the devices worldwide and transformed both the way most people listen to and buy music.
While it’s the music industry that’s had to adjust to the latter it’s the former that has been starting to cause some concerns about its effect on a whole generation of music fans. This is for the simple reason that virtually everybody listens to their device via headphones at volumes that may well be too loud for too long.
Naturally, studies are still in their early days as people have only been using iPods for the last couple of decades and ear damage grows gradually over time. So while only a few people may be affected now, it could well be just the tip of the iceberg.
Fundamental to the damage that is being caused is the fact that delivering sound through earphones amplifies its effect on the sensitive parts of the ear including the delicate hairs that line the ear canal. It’s thought that in-ear plugs will be the most damaging with outside the ear headphones causing less harm. Best of all, some experts feel, would be noise cancelling headphones that would mean lower sound levels could be heard more clearly.
But just how loud is loud? Well, a rocket taking off would register about 180 decibels and normal conversation normally reaches around 60 decibels. The highest ‘safe’ sound level is reckoned to be about 85 decibels and prolonged exposure to any louder sound than this could lead to permanent damage.
Concerns about the potential damage being caused by listening to loud music this way has also led to the introduction of the so-called 60/60 rule. This says that you should only listen to any device at a maximum of 60% of its full volume for a total of 60 minutes a day. To help users identify this level, there is often a warning on the device when it’s being exceeded.
It can be very hard to identify whether your hearing is being affected by listening to loud music for too long each day but if you do have any worries it’s always best to have your hearing checked professionally – and it’s also a good time to get advice about safe listening from an expert.
Naturally, it will also be a great early warning about whether sooner or later it won’t be earphones you’re popping into your ears, but hearing aids instead.
Effects On Hearing For The iPod Generation