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iPods Linked to Temporary Hearing Loss

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

Safe iPod Rx continued...

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.

Keeping track of time is also important. "You can adapt to higher volume settings over time, not realizing that the higher volume may be harmful to your hearing," the web site states. “Hearing experts warn that noise-induced hearing loss can also occur as a result of repeated exposure to loud sound over time. The louder the volume, the less time required before your hearing may be affected."

What's more, "if you experience ringing in your ears or hear muffled speech, stop listening and have your hearing checked."

The new research "helps to underscore the need for education -- teaching MP3 player users that overexposure can lead to significant effects on the ear," says Cory Portnuff, an audiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"Temporary hearing loss, like the ones identified in this study, is a big warning sign that more serious damage is occurring," Portnuff  tells WebMD. "Every time that a temporary hearing loss happens  in your ear, some permanent damage to the hair cells occurs.

The bottom line? "Whether it's attending a loud concert, working with power tools, or using an MP3 player, if you notice decreased hearing  or ringing in the ears, you know you've had too high an exposure level."

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