MP3 Players Are Bad?

December 6, 2005 at 12:03 am in LA

Over the weekend, NBC4 aired a “For Your Health” segment that dealt with the dangers of portable MP3 players, singling out the iPod and its earbuds since it’s been the top seller for MP3 players, especially this holiday season:

The hottest holiday gift may be an mp3 player, but new studies show the audio file device can damage childrens’ hearing.

NBC4’s Dr. Bruce Hensel talked to two teens who are already suffering from hearing loss, including an NBC4 editor’s daughter.

Kids are listening to their mp3 players everywhere and all the time, Hensel reported.

Elyse Hollander and Sara Gharagozlou told Hensel mp3 fun is not without severe side effects.

“I listen full blast, and when I take them off, I get severe headaches that last a long time,” Sara Gharagozlou said.

“When I put them in, the sound is numbing,” Hollander said. “It’s so loud, (they) vibrate in the whole head and numb it for two hours.”

More after the jump.

You would think that would make the two teens stop using the devices.

Anything but, and parents aren’t getting the message either. The mp3 players are the hottest holiday gift on the market.

The way they are made may add to the potential danger, Hensel reported.

The volume controls are just a touch of a finger away, but the earphones are small and go inside the ear. That can make the problem even worse.

“They’re digital, so they play it really loud and because it’s good loud, they listen to it longer, and they don’t have to change batteries,” said Dr. Warren Line, an ear, nose and throat specialist at St. Joseph Medical Center.

“I probably play it so loud, the person next to me can hear the song completely,” Hollander said.

“They’ll come to me to buy hearing aids when they’re my age,” Line said.

For anyone, young or old, who loves the mp3s, the advice is simple: if it’s painful, it’s too loud, so, when using one, listen in short intervals. You will receive less permanent hearing damage.

Of course, there is always another choice.

“If you know they hurt your hearing, would you stop?” Hensel asked.

“Oh, definitely, I don’t want to be deaf by the time I’m 40,” Gharagozlou said.

Realistically, most kids won’t stop, Hensel reported. So, teaching them to keep the volume down and listening for only a few minutes at a time will help.

The way the segment was presented, however, made it sound like it wasn’t necessarily the fault of the user for risking hearing loss, but the companies themselves that produce the MP3 players and earbuds. Hensel mentioned that there is no parental lock on iPods for limiting their volume, but whatever happened to common sense? Especially since the two kids who were profiled in the segment reported severe side-effects from blasting the music directly into their ears: “‘I listen full blast, and when I take them off, I get severe headaches that last a long time,'” and “‘It’s so loud, (they) vibrate in the whole head and numb it for two hours.'”

Seriously, these symptoms seem like such obvious warning signs, but maybe kids their age feel their hearing is invincible with these new electronic devices. Then again, I wonder if there were similar sensationalist news segments back when the Walkman and Discman first came out?

Also, the idea of not protecting one’s hearing maybe isn’t limited to the so-called MySpace Generation, because even when surrounded by diverse crowds at some recent rock concerts, I noticed that I seemed to be the only one wearing earplugs.

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