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Enjoy Your MP3 Player, Protect Your Hearing

With Christmas come and gone, I'm sure many of you gave your family and loved ones MP3 players and, most likely, iPods of various sizes. This is as good a time as any to remind you about taking care of your ears as you're breaking in that new tech toy.

Audiologists have been concerned about this since the not-so-distant days of the audio cassette Walkman and, later on, the portable CD player. In fact, the earbuds that come with many MP3 players are probably more harmful to your hearing than those "old fashioned" larger headphones with the large black foam covers, according to experts.

Those earbuds that rest in your ear boost sounds by as much as 6-9 decibels, or as one Northwestern University professor put it, the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a motorcycle engine. And, these devices are equipped with tiny hard drives storing thousands of songs and Podcasts and rechargeable batteries that encourage you to listen for an overly long time.

A perfectly logical solution by this Northwestern professor -- and one I would endorse -- is the 60 percent/60 minute rule. The goal is to restrict your use of the MP3 player of your choice for no more than an hour a day and at sound levels 60 percent below the maximum volume.

Also, if you're willing to try other headphones (of the noise-canceling variety) and turn down the volume further, you can probably use that iPod even longer and just as safely.

Science Daily December 16, 2005

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