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[ Ed. note: I wrote this article in 2006 and it’s valuable enough to reprint 13 years later with some more recent sources.]
Musician’s Most Valuable Asset
I read in the paper the other day that a class action suit has been filed against Apple Computer, claiming Apple knows the iPod can cause permanent hearing loss if it is played too loudly. What I was surprised to learn is that the iPod is capable of producing music with decibels between 115 and 130! In 2002, France required Apple to limit the iPod’s sound output to 100 decibels. Good for France. But, dang, 100 decibels is still quite loud.
Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous. Hearing is affected by the decibel level and the length of exposure. Sounds below 70 dB pose no known risk no matter how long they last. Exposure to 85 dB for eight hours daily has been adopted by many hearing specialists and safety experts as the limit for occupational noise.
Chart of Decibel Levels of Music and Instruments
How long do you listen to your MP3 player and at what volume level?
With mp3 players so popular – you can’t ride the bus or walk the neighborhood without seeing someone with plugs in their ears – I fear for people’s hearing health. Many MP3 manufacturers, Apple included, have adopted the earbud style headphones. These type of headphones bring louder sounds deeper into the ear canal, putting your ears at higher risk. Studies have shown that because the tiny phones inserted into the ears are not as efficient at blocking outside sounds as the cushioned headsets, users tend to crank up the volume to compensate. I’ve done it myself.
Protect your hearing
What should you do to protect your hearing and continue to listen to your favorite music?
1) Wear hearing protection when you are exposed to loud or damaging noise at work, in the community or at home.
2) Limit periods of exposure to noise.
3) Lower the volume!
4) Look for noise ratings when buying recreational equipment, toys, appliances, and power tools.
5) Remember the 60/60 rule; listen at 60% of the volume just 60 minutes a day.
Here are all the links I used in this post along with some other informative resources I found online:
- Consumer Reports lists 5 Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss 
- Dr. Habib Sadeghi writes Earbuds Raise Your Risk of Hearing Loss 
- League for the Hard of Hearing [Effective April 21, 2009, the League for the Hard of Hearing will be known as the Center for Hearing and Communication.]
- Personal Stereo Systems and Risk of Hearing Loss 
- Custom Hearing Protection from Westone 
- ‘Ear Bud’ headphones can cause hearing loss, experts warn 
- Decibel Comparison Chart See chart of decibel levels of musical instruments above.
- Musicians and Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know