KidsPost: Loud Music Through Earbuds Can Lead to Hearing Loss Over Time

Radhika Rajkumar, 13, of the District listens to her iPod, but the volume is not so loud that she can't hear conversations near her: "I may not be paying attention, but I can hear them."
Radhika Rajkumar, 13, of the District listens to her iPod, but the volume is not so loud that she can't hear conversations near her: "I may not be paying attention, but I can hear them." (Bill O'leary - Twp)
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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Have you ever been listening to your iPod and had someone try to talk to you -- but you couldn't hear them?

If so, your iPod is probably turned up too loud. And if it is, there are a lot of reasons to turn it down.

Many kids today have portable MP3 players that they listen to regularly, and that has raised concern among experts who study hearing. That's because if you listen to something that's even somewhat loud over a long period of time, it can cause hearing loss in the long run. At first you may not notice it, but it could become a problem, according to Anne Oyler, who is an audiologist, or hearing specialist.

"If they feel they want to turn it up for one song, that's fine. But if you listen to an iPod every day at a very loud level, gradually over time you're going to notice that your hearing has gone down," Oyler said. Think about it: No other generation has started listening to music through headphones and earbuds this young. So no other generation has ever been at such a high risk for hearing loss.

So how loud is too loud? Every song is different, and every device is different, but Oyler said a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hear what's going on around you, such as a person talking in a normal voice an arm's length away. (And that person should not be able to hear what you're listening to.)

Of course, you may not always want to hear what's going on around you. "I'm always able to hear the conversations. I may not be paying attention, but I can hear them," said Radhika Rajkumar, a 13-year-old from Washington, who said she listens to her iPod off and on all day.

Radhika said she and her friends are aware that loud volume can cause hearing loss, but it's more of an issue for kids who like to listen to music that she said "sounds better" when it's loud. Radhika said she only sometimes listens to those kinds of songs.

Oyler said she'd like to see kids remove themselves from the "noisy" world occasionally to experience quieter sounds and environments. "Listening to quiet sounds is good for you: It lowers your blood pressure. It relaxes you," she said.

Radhika said she prefers to have her iPod on but does have one place where she likes to listen to something quiet: "Sometimes I like to just go sit in the back yard and listen to the birds, listen to nature. It can be really nice."

-- Margaret Webb Pressler


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