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iPods Linked to Temporary Hearing Loss

Jury Still Out on Whether iPods or MP3 Players Can Cause Permanent Hearing Loss
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Safe iPod Rx

There are safe ways to enjoy your music on these portable devices, Fligor says. “You could listen to your iPod for an hour and a half at 80% (or a volume of level eight) and not increase your risk for hearing loss.” And, “If you keep it at six or below, you can listen all day long,” he says. These safe settings were verified by the new study.

Today’s portable music devices are capable of holding thousands of songs, and they have a much longer battery life than older devices, says Michael Rothschild, MD, director of  pediatric otolaryngology at Mount Sinai Medical center in New York City.

By contrast, the Walkman of yesteryear was limited to one mixed tape in terms of the amount of music it contained, and its battery life was shorter.

“There is greater opportunity for longer exposure today,” Rothschild says.

This study shows that there is smoke, but it’s too early to say whether there is fire, he says.

“The fact that there is a temporary change in hearing would make one think it is worth investigating whether there is a permanent change,” Rothschild says. “Devices that have the propensity to deliver high volumes for long periods of time need to be looked into. The findings are cause for concern in the sense that every kid is carrying around in their pocket a device that could damage their hearing.”

Rothschild usually tells parents that if they can fully hear the music -- and lyrics -- through their kids’ headphones or ear buds, it is too loud.

Apple Inc., which manufactures the iPod, says the following on its web site. “if you listen to music and audio with headphones or earbuds -- whether they’re connected to your iPod, your computer, or some other audio source -- you should follow a few common-sense recommendations." 

These include thinking about the proper volume setting. "Some hearing experts recommend that you set the volume while in a quiet environment, turn the volume down if you can’t hear people speaking near you, avoid turning up the volume to block out noisy surroundings, and limit the amount of time that you use earbuds or headphones at high volume," the web site states.

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