Despite the warnings by health experts about the hearing loss caused by the MP3 players, young music lovers just keep on using it without paying any heed to those warnings. But sensing the health hazards it poses, some manufacturers have now started limiting the volume on the devices.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recently warned youths about potential damage to the ears associated with MP3 players. The ASHA said having the volume up too loud and listening for too long were the main causes of hearing loss.
But that doesn't seem to worry Jessica Manks, a 15-year-old from Braunschweig, near here.
After class, she reaches immediately for her MP3 player. "I just have to hear music all the time," says Manks whose favourite music is hip-hop.
She also has the earpieces on at home to her mother's exasperation. "My mom's always saying, 'Not so loud,'" says Manks, who does not take her mother very seriously.
A lot of students use their MP3 players like Manks. More than half her classmates have one of the devices, which can hold thousands of songs in digital format. Many of her classmates do not even turn their players off during class prompting teachers to threaten to confiscate them.
The warnings by doctors seem to have had some effect on manufacturers. Apple Computer Co. has limited the volume of iPods sold in Europe to 100 decibels. However, that's about the same level of volume close up at a rock concert.
Young ears are not more sensitive than older ears, said Michael Deeg of the German professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors in Neumuenster. But when they listen through the earpieces that accompany the MP3 players, they tend too turn up the volume.
"Young people, therefore, should give their ears regular breaks," he said.
There's another danger that could affect iPod users, according to a group of British physicians. Music is selected on an iPod by turning a small wheel with the thumb.
British physicians recently said this could result in an injury they dubbed "iPod thumb." However, Kurt Juergen Schwarz of the Association of German Chiropracters in Berlin said it was "far-fetched."
For the thumb there is apparently little danger, but the ears are a different story, even if young people don't believe it.
"I have been listening to music this way for a long time and I don't have any hearing loss," said Manks. She refuses to listen to the radio because too much of the broadcasts are "news and boring stuff".
Oliver Perzborn of the Trend Bureau, a Hamburg marketing consultancy, seemed more concerned about "uncool sound" coming from an MP3 player rather than hearing loss.
"Whenever there's something new, there's always a broad movement against it," he said. When comics were new, they were supposed to make readers stupid, he noted. That did little to turn them away.
Perzborn said anyone without an MP3 player was not considered cool and, although doctors see it differently, volume is more important for young people than a threat that they could lose their hearing.
"I've got to show who I am," Perzborn said. "That's why I play music very loudly over my earpieces."