In the age of the iPod, where the music never stops, how can users of personal stereos ensure their ears don’t give out? By turning down the volume, taking breaks from listening or using noise-canceling earphones, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
Now, those who have Nano or video-capable iPods can download software that limits the top volume of the units.
Although the unregulated volume of Apple Computer Inc.’s iPods can reach more than 115 decibels, 85 decibels is the “line of demarcation,” says Pam Mason, the association’s director of professional audiology practices. At that level, listeners can use the units continuously for eight hours.
For each increase of 5 decibels, users should cut listening time in half, Mason says. So, if you were listening at 90 decibels, “you’d wear them for four hours.” If you’re listening at 120 decibels, you would tune in for only five to 10 minutes before taking a break.
Taking a break from loud noises is very important, Mason says. “Our ears have natural resiliency built into them. After a loud concert, your ears are ringing and sounds are muffled. But in the morning, you don’t have those symptoms. Those are temporary effects of excessive noise, and you do recover your hearing.” But “continual exposure is going to lead to a permanent hearing loss.”
Mason uses a “three-foot rule” as a guide: If you’re standing three feet from someone listening to a personal stereo and you can hear what’s playing, the music is too loud. If you’re listening to a music player and you can’t hear someone three feet away speaking to you, lower the volume.