On Music and Hearing Loss
Like industrial noise exposure, the effects of music are gradual and typically not noticed for many years. Like industrial
noise exposure, the effects of music exposure are not just limited to hearing, but also to tinnitus (or ringing in the ears)
and even pitch perception problems. And, like industrial noise exposure, the effects of music exposure are primarily relat-
ed to the intensity of exposure and duration of exposure. However, unlike industrial noise exposure, musicians and music
lovers experience music in varying venues with exposure schedules that are impossible to predict.
Researchers and clinicians working in the industrial domain compare measures of noise exposure with well-defined mod-
els of hearing loss. This is possible because many sources of noise have similar physical properties. Music in contrast has
highly variable properties and is played in every environment from garages to concert halls. Making definitive predictions
concerning the damage-risk criteria of music may be a far more difficult task than for industrial noise exposure.
ASHA Study - The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credential-
ing association for more than 123,000 members and affiliates who are audiologist, speech-language pathologists, and
speech, language and hearing scientists. With press attention focused on portable music players and their risk to hearing,
ASHA investigates further, testing the decibel levels of a range of randomly chosen devices that produce sound which is
plugged into the ear. ASHA looked at examples of popular technology. Test results suggest a need for public education so
that consumers can safely enjoy society's most popular technology, say ASHA experts.
"All of the devices we tested can produce sound well above the maximum safety level of 85 decibels," says Pam Mason,
ASHA director of Audiology Professional Practices. Irreparable hearing loss could result, Mason notes, her concern bol-
stered by recent research as well as accounts that Baby Boomer icons like rockers Pete Townshend and Mick Fleetwood
now have trouble hearing because of their long and constant exposure to excessively loud music.
ASHA used a laboratory sound-level meter for the testing in the field study. All of the examined devices produced sound
well above the safety level identified by federal standards for controlling occupational noise exposure. While the well-publi-
cized iPod had an upper range of more than 120 dB, lesser known but still popular products like the Bratz Liptunes and
Mix Sticks - MP3 players marketed to younger children - nearly matched the iPod, showing decibel levels as high as 120
and 118 dB respectively. ASHA's testing showed:
Player Volume Setting and dBA Readings
Full Vol. 1/2 Vol. Low Vol.
iPod 120-25 98-101 68-72
Walkman MP3 108-115 85-94 55-62
iRiver T10 115-122 98-106 70-79
Bratz - Liptunes 115-120 90-94 45-50
Disney Mix Stick 112-118 87-99 60-66
H700 Bluetooth 82-106 68-73 52-60
The high decibel range on products like the Bratz and Mix Stick are especially worrisome because they are marketed to
younger children. "For a child, even minimal hearing loss can have devastating life-long ramifications, significantly impair-
ing their education and social development," notes Carli VanHarken, co-owner of the Comprehensive Ear & Hearing
Group. "ASHA encourages consumers to lower the volume, limit the time spent listening, and wear ear phones that block
out unwanted ambient sound, reducing the need to increase volume levels," continues Ms. VanHarken. "More research
needs to be done along with educating the public about safe usage. However, we encourage parents to obtain an objec-
tive baseline audiological evaluation, with subsequent annual check-ups whenever a risk is noted."
The Comprehensive Ear & Hearing Group has offices in Zeeland, Holland and Grand Haven. The goal of owners Carli
Van Harken and Kristin Johnston, BA, BC-HIS is to offer you the most Comprehensive level of hearing care along the
Lakeshore. Call any of our offices for more information and to schedule your FREE hearing evaluation.