ACCORDING to the Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA) listening to loud music through portable music devices may be causing permanent damage to our hearing.
Professor Rob Eikelboom, Head of eHealth ESIA, says that exposing the ears to loud sound may cause permanent damage to the hearing cells in the cochlea and lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common type of hearing loss and it affects all age groups—children are just as vulnerable,” he says.
According to the ESIA, listening to personal music player (PMP) devices at maximum volume for less than four minutes can be just as damaging to hearing as exposure to industrial noise.
“Most of us will have noticed the increasing number of people using PMPs such as iPods and other MP3 players, and the alarmingly loud volumes that these devices are played at,” he says.
“Some PMPs are able to produce a maximum volume as high as 106dB. That’s a level that should not be listened to for longer than 3.75 minutes without risking permanent hearing damage, according to the established safety guidelines.”
“The introduction of more sophisticated PMPs with the ability to store large amounts of music have encouraged people to listen to music at increasingly higher volumes for more extended periods of time—and we’re seeing a corresponding increase in noise-induced hearing loss in young people,” he says.
Research in the United States has revealed that up to 15 per cent of school age children suffer from some form of hearing loss. Similar studies have not yet been done in Australia.
In response to concern about the level of noise exposure from PMPs the ESIA has developed a new app to help listeners monitor their exposure.
When downloaded on to a personal music player (PMP), the app measures the decibel level of the sound and alerts the listener when they are approaching their daily recommended noise exposure limit.
For every 3dB increase in sound level, the amount of time the ear can tolerate sound before damage occurs is halved.
Eikelboom says noise induced hearing loss can often take several years to become apparent.
“The damage done to hearing from exposure to noise cannot be repaired—however, it is preventable, and we hope the development of the Safe and Sound app will go some way towards doing just that,” he says.