Listening to loud music, especially for extended periods of time, can cause hearing damage at a young age.
That was true for the current generation of adults who grew up listening to loud rock music. Researchers believe it will be a bigger problem for the “MP3 generation” who have the ability to listen to loud music anywhere they can wear their headphones or earbuds.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 12 percent of children and teens ages 12-19 have permanent hearing loss caused by listening to loud sounds.
That adds up to approximately 5.2 million teenagers. An additional 26 million adults also have noise-induced hearing loss.
Why is the MP3 generation at higher risk than previous generations of music lovers? There are three basic factors for this:
We’ve all been around people listening to music on an MP3 player who don’t realize or care that the volume is so loud the sound is literally leaking out of their headphones into the room.
The personal nature of MP3 players gives the impression that the listener can turn up the volume without bothering the other people in the vicinity, which can lead to even louder volumes.
When listening in an already-loud environment, for instance, while mowing grass or riding in an airplane, listeners -- and especially teens -- tend to crank up the volume so they can hear their music over the outside noise.
Most headphones max out at a volume of about 110 decibels, or rock concert level. Hearing loss can occur with exposure to sounds rated 85 decibels or more.
How long the sound occurs is another factor that contributes to noise-induced hearing loss. An extremely loud sound like an explosion can cause hearing loss in a very short length of time. A loud sound, such as blaring music, can cause damage when played over a longer amount of time.
MP3 players, like iPods, can hold thousands of songs and play them for hours before the batteries need to be recharged. This means many young people are listening non-stop to loud music for hours at a time.