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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Cranking MP3 Volume May Hurt Hearing

Don't Push the Volume Too High on iPODs and Other Players, Experts Say
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 19, 2006 -- Using earphones to listen to your iPod or similar music player? Don't crank up the volume too high for too long.

That's the word from a conference called Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children at Work and Play.

Two studies on iPods and similar devices will be presented today at the conference, being held in Cincinnati.

The first study comes from Cory Portnuff, AuD, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Portnuff's team conducted a series of tests to determine exactly how long and how loud people could safely listen to iPods and similar devices with different types of earphones.

Those headphones included earbuds, sound-isolating headphones (which reduce background noise), and regular over-the-ear headphones.

The key finding: The higher the volume, the more you should limit your listening time, with the recommended limits varying somewhat depending on the type of headphones you're using.

How Loud, How Long

If you listen at 10% to 50% of maximum volume, the researchers say you can listen as long as you want, regardless of headphone type.

But if you push the volume to 80% of maximum, the researchers recommend limiting your daily listening time as follows:

  • Earbuds: 1.5 hours (1.2 hours for iPod earbuds)
  • Sound-isolating headphones: 50 minutes
  • Over-the-ear headphones: nearly 5 hours

If you turn down the volume just a bit, to 70% of the maximum, the researchers suggest more generous time limits:

  • Earbuds : 6 hours (4.6 hours for iPod earbuds)
  • Sound-isolating headphones: 3.4 hours
  • Over-the-ear headphones: 20 hours

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