(Don’t!) Pump up the Volume

(Don’t!) Pump up the Volume

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Your favorite gadget may cause some not-so-favorable hearing problems for you in the future. I SAID your favorite gadget may cause some not-so-favorable hearing problems for you in the future.

In the days of walkmans and portable CD players, our ears got a break from the sound when we had to change the CD or batteries. Today, with iPods and other MP3 players using longer-lasting batteries, thus producing hours of music, ear drums are taking a beating. Adding insult to injury, unlimited calling plans and bluetooth headsets strengthen the inclination to spend hours on a cell phone every day.

Dr. Kerry Havens, an audiologist at The Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center in West Chester, Ohio, says the amount of time spent listening to headphones isn't as important as the volume. And no particular type of headphone or ear bud makes a difference, she adds.

The duration can still be damaging as listening to music at a moderate level for an extended amount of time can be damaging. Havens says the damage caused is cumulative, meaning that damage may be caused a little at a time, but it adds up.

A study presented at a Washington D.C. conference in September by Dr. Naresh Panda, head of India’s ENT department, shows that using a cell phone for longer than an hour a day over a long period of time could lead to inner ear damage. However, some doctors, including Havens, do not think cell phones pose a significant threat.

“I doubt cell phones cause hearing damage because they don’t get loud enough,” Havens says.

A safe listening level is 85 decibels. The only way to measure that is to get a sound pressure level meter, and not everyone has one of those. A less gadget-geek way to tell if you are in a safe listening rage is to turn the volume up loudly enough that you can hear your music, but still hear the conversations in the room around you.

Havens says some of the symptoms of hearing loss are ringing or warmth in your ear or the feeling that your ear is plugged up.

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