A small study suggests most teens know that loud music can damage their hearing, yet most don't see a reason to turn down the volume of their MP3 player. The researchers also report that most users of iPods or other MP3 players don't know at which level the player becomes bad for their ears. The report suggests MP3 player makers could equip the units with an indicator that displays the volume in terms of decibels, along with a warning signal when the volume gets too loud.
In focus-group discussions with students at two high schools in the Netherlands, researchers found that the teens were generally aware that blasting an MP3 player could harm their hearing. Yet most said they usually played their own device at maximum volume and had no plans to change that.
Like many teenagers, the students often denied their own personal risk. Most knew the general hazards of loud music, but believed they had a "low personal vulnerability" to hearing loss, the researchers report in the Journal of Pediatrics.
Given this, lead researcher Ineke Vogel told Reuters Health in an email interview, "we strongly recommend parents to inform their children and to discuss with their children the use of MP3 players and the potential long- term, irreversible consequences for hearing capacity."
Parents can also look for signs of a problem, like when a child complains of ringing in the ears or sounds being "muffled," according to Vogel and co-researcher Dr. Hein Raat, who are both based at the University Medical Center Rotterdam.
Based on the focus-group discussions, though, many parents may be unaware of the hearing risks posed by MP3 players, the researchers note. Of the 73 students in the study, few said their parents had warned them that playing the devices too loud could harm their hearing.
It may also be necessary for MP3 manufacturers to make changes, the researchers note in their report.
Many students in the study said they did not know how to tell when their MP3 players were too loud. Volumes at or above 90 decibels (dB) are believed to be hazardous, Vogel's team notes, but noise levels need to reach 120 dB to 140 dB to become uncomfortable or painful.
To prevent ear damage it's recommended that MP3 users set the volume no higher than 60 percent of its full capacity when using ear bud style headphones and 70 percent with over-the-ear headphones.