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Men's Health

7 Ways High-Tech Gadgets Could Be Hurting You

Sure, they make life easier, but could all this technology be harmful to your health? WebMD gets the experts to weigh in.
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4. Obesity

There's a much more direct relationship between obesity and a digital lifestyle. It comes from spending too much time sitting on your rear. It's not late-breaking news that Americans are getting fatter and that kids are packing on extra pounds at a younger age. The hours per day Americans spend glued to the tube has been trending steadily upward, according to the Nielsen Co., with households leaving the set on for an average of eight hours and 14 minutes per day during the 2006-2007 season.

"Basically, the more TV you watch, the heavier you are," Jason Mendoza, MD, MPH, tells WebMD. In addition to the sedentary activity itself, all the commercials for gooey pizza actually can make you eat more, he says.

Nowadays, screen time isn't limited to television; we may spend as much or more time using a computer for work or school. Then, for recreation, instead of going outside to shoot some hoops, we play video games. When Mendoza, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, compared the body weights of preschoolers who used computers and those who didn't, he found the computer-using kids were tubbier. More than two hours a day parked in front of any kind of screen seems to be the tipping point, he says.

5. Hearing Damage

Even when we're out and about, we take our electronics with us, often in the form of iPods or other digital music players. It's nice to be insulated from the hurly-burly of modern life, but listening to music through headphones can increase the risk of hearing loss.

Robert E. Novak, PhD, CCC-A, has been testing the hearing of students at Purdue University, where he's head of the department of speech, language, and hearing sciences. He's seeing too many young people with older ears on younger bodies -- loss of the ability to hear high frequencies that used to occur in late middle age.

While OSHA warns employers to limit workers' exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels, Novak says people commonly listen to music through headphones at 85 to 110 decibels. "It's not just the level of the noise, it's the duration," he points out. Our ears can recover from a siren screeching past, but exposure to loud noise for hours every day can permanently destroy cells in the inner ear.

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