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Music Blog: Headphone Use and Ear Damage

Last week, my dad and I were commuting home on the train, where we found ourselves in the company of one very intense teenager.  Even over the noise of everyone taking their seats, we heard the sound of a loud radio behind us.  The music was playing so loudly that it was causing people to turn in their seats to look at the girl.  The music was coming from her headphones and was soon muffled as she placed them on her ears. As my dad proceeded to rant–or rather “discuss” in that great way parents do, that “this is why he sits in the quiet car”–I dozed off thinking about the damage that girl was doing to her ears by listening to music so loudly.

The large majority of our generation grew up listening to music through headphones. Whether we are working out or studying, headphones are essential, especially on a college campus. It is rather safe to assume that we have all sat by a person in class whose music is so loud we could sing along with them,   but what is this damage doing to our hearing in the long run?

In a 2005 article by MSNBC, Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University in Indiana, reported seeing “older ears on younger bodies.” This epidemic has progressed with our generation’s increased use of iPods, cell phones, and laptops. These hearing issues are arising from users’ inability to recognize that their music volume levels are simply too high.

Many young portable sound device users are tuning into their device to drown out the noise around them. TIME Health looked at a 2009 study conducted by the Colorado University and Children’s Hospital in Boston held to observe 30 iPod users. Cory Portnuff, audiologist at Colorado, reported that even five minutes of listening to music at a high volume can increase one’s risk for long term hearing damage.

So what can we start doing to make sure our ears are not ringing by 30?  First, monitor your volume! By keeping your music at 50-80% volume, you can help save your ears from permanent damage. Use caution, in particular, with noise-canceling headphones. Although these types of headphones are a great way to tune out the world, they can increase the risk of listening too loudly.

Experts also recommend periodically taking time off from the headphones. If you are frequently plugged in, try lessening your headphone use occasionally to decrease the risk of hearing damage. 

In today’s world, it seems that each day brings new technology in one form or another. It is great to get excited and start using these innovations right away, but make sure you are also protecting yourself in the long run!

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