April 28, 2009 / 5:30 PM / 10 years ago

Report calls for action on MP3-related hearing loss

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - With iPods and suchlike music players now a ubiquitous part of teenagers’ lives, it’s up to government and industry to make sure these devices do not damage young people’s hearing, according to a new report.

A man wearing headphones in a file photo. REUTERS/File

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, researchers say that while teenagers who use MP3 players can take measures to protect their hearing — like keeping the volume at a healthy level — they are unlikely to do so.

That means that manufacturers and government need to step in, according to the study, which surveyed various experts from the medical and research fields, education and music industry.

Two key recommendations came from the study, according to Dr. Hein Raat, an associate professor of public health at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

One, he told Reuters Health, is that “authorities should encourage manufacturers to make safer products.” Another is that there should be more public health campaigns to make people aware of the risks of listening to high-volume music, and how to better protect themselves.

Manufacturers should, for instance, equip all MP3 players with a noise- limiter, according to the expert panel. It also recommends that governments consider volume-level regulations for the devices.

In an earlier study of Dutch high school students, Raat and his colleagues found that while the teenagers were aware that blasting an MP3 player could damage their hearing, most typically used their devices at maximum volume and were unwilling to change that.

Those findings support the opinion of experts in the current study that teenagers are generally unlikely to protect themselves from MP3-related hearing damage.

Still, parents can try to discuss the dangers, according to Raat.

They can, for example, tell their children that symptoms such as ringing in the ears or hearing “muffled” sounds are signs of temporary hearing damage — and a sign that their MP3 volumes need to be turned down.

Parents can also have their children use over-the-ear headphones, rather than in-ear style headphones like those that come with iPods, which produce more decibels.

In general, Raat noted, MP3 users should set the volume at no more than 60 percent of its maximum when using in-ear headphones, and 70 percent when using the over-the-ear style.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, May 2009.

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