Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Turn it down.

Loud music. Its right up there with drugs, fast food, and Paris Hilton.

Hearing loss has yet to become an important issue for our generation--it will be. According to the National Institute on Deafness the number of Americans with a hearing loss has doubled during the past 30 years. Some sources say the incidence of hearing loss may triple in the near future.

While this is good news for hearing aid companies (if you ever sit in on a presentation given by a hearing aid manufacturer they will offer up similar statistics, only with more enthusiasm) it is worrisome for young adults.

Mp3 players have altered the music experience. We have access to a variety of music and content that would have been unfathomable only five or six years ago. Devices are more portable than ever, capable of holding exhaustive volumes of music, and accessible to most consumers (you can buy a refurbished Ipod shuffle for only $50). Our generation is listening to music all the time.

Most often, we listen through headphones placed in the ear. Those trendy white earbuds popularized by the Apple Ipod are most likely to damage your hearing. The smaller the headphone, the higher their output at any given volume-control setting. Earbuds also lack the ability to block out background noise causing the user to increase the volume to compensate.

As ears adapt to loud sounds the listener perceives a gradual drop in loudness even though the volume has remained the same. Headphones are most responsible for this 'dulling' effect. With just a flick of the touch sensitive click wheel, volume can be increased to a level that will damage hearing.

While drugs, fast food, and Paris Hilton have all achieved a fair amount of media attention, the public has turned a blind eye (a deaf ear??) to loud music. I propose a simple solution:

All portable music devices should have the option of "locking" the volume so that it cannot be increased beyond a safe, preset level.


Anonymous marissa beck said...

Let's see this couldn't have possibly been inspired by a recent night out at a place downtown, je ne sais quois.. If you find that you often resort to "what?" in recent years to come, I guess you've explained the "why."

11:44 AM  
Blogger skateboardingmom said...

Hey, great post. BTW if you are ever in Kansas I will invite you to a Girls Nite Out. LOL.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:38 PM  
Anonymous Ilia said...

Something that may be an even more serious cause for concern is the MP3 format itself (and all other forms of lossless audio compression). This study points out an issue that could show up in our generation. MP3s are so small because they remove "inaudible" tones from uncompressed audio. On a 128kbit MP3, about 90% of the audio is removed.

The study hypothesizes that though you may not be able to perceive the removed content, your ear still uses that information to process audio. Removing it could disturb the ear's training, and make it hard to do things like isolate conversation in a loud bar, for instance. I'm not sure why this study hasn't gotten more attention. I've been listening to MP3s for a long time and know I can't hear shit.

Back to the loudness issue, Sony used to have a feature on their walkmen and discmen called AVLS (I assume Automatic Volume Limiting System). It had two settings that you could use to limit the volume (triggered by a similar hysteria over hearing loss with headphones when the walkman came out). I haven't really seen this on any recent devices.


3:26 PM  
Blogger Marissa Beck said...

add this to the mix:

10:16 PM  

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