“Turn down the music, it’s too loud! I can hear it all the way across the room! You’ll ruin your ears if you keep that up!” Sound familiar? This scenario is certainly a common theme in your house if you have children between the ages of 10 and 21 and they happen to have some instrument of parental torture in their arsenal such as an iPod or MP3 player. But is it true? Can listening to loud music through headphones damage your hearing?
The answer to this question depends on a lot of different factors. Interestingly iPODs and other MP3 players are safer than what parents grew up with using the portable Walkman CD players of the past. That’s because those sorts of devices actually put out louder more hazardous levels of music that went uncontrolled by any sort of limiter in the gadget itself. Because newer devices actually allow the user to put a limit on how loud sound can be through the headphones, today’s music players can be much more safe.
Damage risk to ears is based primarily upon two factors: how loud the music is and how long the person plays the music. Today’s players can cause damage to ears if played loud enough for long enough. If the limiter is raised too high or is not set at all, damage can occur fairly readily.
The type of earphone used can make a difference in how loud the sound is delivered to the ear as well. When surrounding background noise is loud, like in a work out gym or riding the bus or train, people typically turn up the volume of their music player to compensate. Most types of completely over the ear headphones can block out some outside noise and therefore the volume does not need to be increased as much as with other headphones. The lower the volume, the less likelihood for damage.
A good rule of thumb for safe iPod or MP3 player use is keep the volume below 80% and to listen for less than 90 minutes per day. Using the device at 60% of total volume is safe to use all day every day. Parents should check the user manual of the device to find out how the limiter is set on each individual device. You know they’re still going to wear the headphones at a volume too loud for your liking but you’ll know that they can “Pump Up the Volume” and still keep their ears in good shape.