Twenty-five percent of teens are in danger of early hearing loss as a result of high MP3 volume, reveals study.
Today's ubiquitous MP3 players permit users to listen to crystal-clear tunes at high volume for hours on end - a marked improvement on the days of the Walkman.
But according to Tel Aviv University research, these advances have also turned personal listening devices into a serious health hazard, with teenagers as the most at-risk group.
Prof. Chava Muchnik of TAU's Department of Communication Disorders in the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center and her colleagues studied teens' music listening habits and took acoustic measurements of preferred listening levels.
The results, demonstrate clearly that teens have harmful music-listening habits when it comes to iPods and other MP3 devices.
"In 10 or 20 years it will be too late to realize that an entire generation of young people is suffering from hearing problems much earlier than expected from natural aging," said Prof. Muchnik.
The study found that eighty percent of the total 289 teens use their PLDs regularly, with 21 percent listening from one to four hours daily, and eight percent listening more than four hours consecutively.
Taken together with the acoustic measurement results, the data indicate that a quarter of the participants are at severe risk for hearing loss.
Hearing loss caused by continuous exposure to loud noise is a slow and progressive process. People may not notice the harm they are causing until years of accumulated damage begin to take hold, warned Prof. Muchnik.
It means that those who are misusing MP3 players today might find that their hearing begins to deteriorate as early as their 30's and 40's - much earlier than past generations.
The findings have been published in the International Journal of Audiology.