Who doesn't crank up the tunes occasionally for a rocking cardio session or to block annoying conversations on a morning commute? Unfortunately, dialing up the volume of your iPod can adversely affect your hearing.
We all know that prolonged listening to loud music can lead to hearing loss. Hearing experts say the maximum safe level for listening with ear buds or headphones is 85 decibels, but most people push the volume past competing ambient noise, which for NYC and DC is 80 decibels. This five-decibel window doesn't allow for much play when it comes to hearing your tunes. The European Union recommends a 100-decibel limit to MP3 players sold within its jurisdiction, with the purpose of decreasing associated hearing loss. But the US has no volume cap for music players, and recent tests found that many MP3 players crank all the way to 115 and 125 decibels. Hearing specialists recommend not only decreasing the volume but also the amount of time we all listen to our mighty iPods. Listening to one at maximum volume for only five minutes can begin deteriorating the delicate hair cells that line the inner ear, which decode sound waves into signals the brain interprets as sound.
I just set the volume lock on my iPod to about 80 percent of maximum volume, and I urge you to do the same with your MP3 player, whatever the brand. Easy listening might just mean hearing forever.