MP3 Players: How Loud Is Too Loud? Are some headphones better than others? What is a “safe” listening level, and for how long?
Loud, sustained sound can damage tiny hairs in the cochlea, and yet 80 percent of people listen to personal music devices at dangerous levels above background noise, a study by acousticians shows. Certain models of earphones are safer for the ear, the study also concluded.
Can you hear me now? Not if you’ve pumped up the volume on your MP3 player. In noisy places, everyone is turning up the tunes, and they could be drowning out their own hearing. A new study tells how loud is too loud.
Audiologists Brian Fligor, Sc.D., and Terri Ives have identified safe volume levels for you to use in noisy places. Dr. Fligor, an audiologist and Director of Diagnostic Audiology at Children’s Hospital Boston says, “Your typical listener is not at risk if they are listening in a quiet situation, but if they are in a noisier situation, such as commuting, they very easily are going to be at risk.” Their study concludes that 80 percent of people listen at dangerous levels when background noise comes into play.
The study concludes the average person listens to music at the same noise level as we hear a gas lawnmower. So what can you do? Dr. Fligor says, “Something that people can do is set their music to a comfortable level when they are in a quiet situation.” Dr. Fligor recommends leaving it at that safe level, 75 decibels or below, and investing in earphones that block out background noise.
Turning down the music will ensure you will be able to hear music in the future.
RECOMMENDED LEVELS: The more often and the louder you player your player, the more likely you’ll experience some hearing loss. To come up with recommended listening times and sound levels, the researchers compared the players’ volume levels to the minimum sound level for the risk of hearing damage: 85 dBA. Typically, a person can tolerate about two hours of 91 dBA per day before risking hearing loss. The researchers recommend listening to iPods for — hours a day with earphones if the volume is at 80% of maximum levels. Listening at full volume is not recommended for more than 5 minutes per day using the earphones that come with the player.