In the wake of reports that the 2006 holiday shopping season included record sales of personal audio technology products like the iPod, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has produced and disseminated nationwide television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) about the importance of safeguarding one's hearing when listening to the technology.
Set in a fictionalized tattoo parlor, fifteen and thirty second TV spots depict humorous unintended consequences from listening to an MP3 player at high volume. A young man receives the wrong tattoo due to miscommunication between him and the tattoo artist. The whole time, both are listening to MP3 players set at high volume.
Meanwhile, the radio spots compare the sound levels produced by personal audio technology with that from other sources–a soda can, a tattoo gun, a motorcycle and a chain saw. By doing so, they make a compelling point about the amount of noise that goes into the ear when the technology is played too loudly.
The PSAs are the latest phase of "America: Tuned in Today…But Tuned Out Tomorrow?", an ASHA public education campaign about the potential risk of hearing loss from unsafe usage of personal audio technology.
To date, key campaign elements have included www.listentoyourbuds.org, an interactive bilingual website for young children, parents, and educators; two national polls on usage habits and attitudes and subsequent video news packages; and, a presentation at the first ever national conference on noise induced hearing loss in children. The campaign has drawn global media coverage, and was the reason why ASHA won a 2007 Associations Advance America Award of Excellence from the American Society of Association Executives.
"We want the public to not only enjoy their holiday gifts, but also enjoy personal audio technology in general," ASHA President Noma Anderson says, "but we want them to do safely. We are confident that our TV PSAs will resonate with teens and young adults in particular, and that the radio spots will speak to the general public. We hope everyone gets the basic message to keep the volume down."
Recent research on the sound output levels of the iPod and other MP 3 players suggests that the devices produce high enough sound levels to pose a risk of hearing loss if they are used at high enough volumes for extended durations.
Last year, ASHA did the first ever national polling of usage habits of today's popular audio technology. It showed that two-fifths of students and adults set the volume at loud on their Apple iPods, with teen students twice as likely as adults to play it very loud (13% vs. 6%).
In addition, poll results indicated that equal percentages of adults (48%) and teens (47%) say they are not concerned about hearing loss from use of such products.
"Clearly, there are challenges to be met, but we look forward to being a leading source of continued public education not only through our PSAs, but also through the all of the other aspects of our comprehensive campaign," President Anderson adds. "And we invite others-corporations, government agencies, allied organizations, and the like-to join with us for the sake of hearing health."
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 126,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language, and hearing scientists.