Popular Technology Unpopular With Ear's Hair Cells
In products that plug into the ear, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association testing finds decibel levels high enough to destroy the hair cells, causing permanent hearing loss
(Rockville, MD - February 28, 2006) Popular technology-not just the personal music player, iPod-could prove harmful to the hearing of the nation, and especially to that of the young, if it is not used properly, testing by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests.
With media attention focused on the ubiquitous iPod, ASHA investigated further, testing the decibel levels of a range of randomly chosen devices that produce sound which is plugged into the ear.
Altogether, ASHA looked at nine examples of popular technology, including the iPod, several additional MP3 players for both adults and younger children, a lap top, and a pocket PC.
Test results underscore the need for a concerted public education so that consumers can safely enjoy society's most popular technology, ASHA experts say.
"All of the devices we tested can produce sound well above the maximum safety level of 85 decibels," Pam Mason, ASHA's Director of Audiology Professional Practices, reports. Irreparable hearing loss could result, Mason notes, her concern bolstered by recent research as well as accounts that Boomer icons like rockers Pete Townshend of The Who and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac now have trouble hearing because of their long and constant exposure to excessively loud music.
ASHA randomly tested music on the following popular technology:
Four personal stereo systems marketed to adults: the Apple iPod, the Creative ZEN Nano Plus, the Sony Walkman MP3/TRAC3plus, and the iRiver T10; the Dell Latitude D610 Laptop; the Dell Axim X5 Handheld; the Motorola Motostart H700 Bluetooth (tested voice only); the MGA Entertainment Bratz Liptunes MP3 Player; andthe Disney Mix Stick.
ASHA used a laboratory sound-level meter for the testing. All of the examined devices produced sound well above the safety level identified by federal standards for controlling occupational noise exposure. While the well-publicized iPod had an upper range of more than 120 decibels, lesser known but still popular products like the Bratz Liptunes and Mix Stick--MP3 players marketed to younger children-nearly matched the iPod, showing decibel levels as high as 120 and 118 respectively.
Specifically, ASHA's testing showed the following (numbers reflect decibel-dBA-readings):
|Apple iPod (15 GB)
|Creative ZEN Nano Plus
|Sony Walkman MP3/ATRAC3plus
|Dell Latitude D610 Laptop
|Dell Axim X5 Handheld
|Motorola Motostart H700 Bluetooth*
|Bratz: Liptunes MP3 Player
|Disney Mix Stick
*One quarter and three quarters readings not tested
"The high decibel range on products like the Bratz and Mix Stick are especially worrisome because they are marketed to younger children," Mason says. "For a child, even minimal hearing loss can have devastating, life-long ramifications, significantly impairing their educational and social development."
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.
ASHA would also like to work with the makers of such devices to educate the public about safe usage, with a particular focus on reaching younger children.
"Many kids who are using this type of technology are plugging virtual rock concerts into their ears," Mason says. "Parents, grandparents and all other significant adults in our children's lives need to be aware of the risk and make sure the children are, too."
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 127,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.
For further information, visit ASHA's Web site.