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.
4. Obesity continued...
"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.
6. Risk of Life and Limb
Chatting on your cell phone makes you drive like you're drunk, says David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah and an expert on driver distraction. Using a driving simulator, he put people with a blood alcohol level of .08 behind the wheel, and then tested them sober but using a cell phone a few days later. "The person on the cell phone was every bit as impaired," Strayer tells WebMD. You're four times more likely to have an accident with the phone glued to your ear.
Hands-free phones and voice dialing don't seem to help. It's not so much fiddling with buttons that puts you at risk, but rather that the conversation itself engages parts of your brain that would be better focused on the road. Strayer says. "It's more of an impairment because the mind is not on the road than because the hand's aren't on the wheel," he says. Because the person at the other end of the phone isn't aware of driving conditions, you get pulled into a deeper conversation than you would with someone beside you.
If gabbing on the phone makes you four times more likely to have an accident, texting doubles your risk yet again, Strayer says. "Taking your mind off the road for even a second can be very hazardous," he says, yet reading and replying to a message tends to take a few seconds. Add to that the need to hold the device steady, and it's not surprising that you're eight times more likely to crash while texting.