Don't pump up the volume: Australian research

A woman wears headphones in Tokyo September 12, 2007. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Next time you crank up the volume, beware: an Australian government report said young people risk developing permanent hearing problems if they go to noisy bars and listen to loud music through headphones.

The report, released on Tuesday, found two out of three Australians suffered some degree of hearing damage, but 70 percent of people aged 18 to 34 years had reported ringing in their ears, or tinnitus, which can be a sign of permanent damage.

“This may reflect a lifestyle aspect, with younger Australians more likely to attend bars, pubs and listen to music through headphones,” said the report, titled “Is Australia Listening”.

The report said 41 percent of adults listen to music through headphones at least once a month, with 76 percent of young adults listen to music through headphones on MP3 players such as iPods.

It also found 60 percent of younger people who listen to music through headphones turn the volume up high enough to damage their ears.

The report urged people to listen to MP3 players at a moderate level to protect their ears from long-term harm.

Professor Harvey Dillon, from the government-funded Hearing Australia, said many young people did not realize that hearing damage was permanent.

“If it is loud, it can cause damage. and if it does cause you damage, it is permanent,” Dillon told Australian television.

“Our rule of thumb is if people have to raise their voice or actually shout at you to make themselves understood while you are listening to music in your ears, then that is loud enough to be potentially damaging.”

Reporting by James Grubel, editing by Miral Fahmy