Music devices can lead to permanent hearing loss
A Harris Health System ear specialist is concerned about the popularity of personal music devices like iPods and other MP3 players and their lack of sound-limiting controls.
These devices, when combined with attached ear buds and headphones, can generate sound levels up to 115 decibels, well above the highest level of 85 decibels recommended by most hearing experts.
"Unfortunately, children who suffer noise-induced hearing loss from these devices are risking permanent damage that will affect them as adults and for their entire lives," said Dr. Sancak Yuksel, otorhinolaryngologist, Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, and assistant professor, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
Hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. Sudden or prolonged damage can lead to permanent hearing loss or complete deafness.
"Aside from the intensity of the sound or a noise, my concern is how long the person is exposed to that sound or noise," Yuksel said.
While everyone is susceptible to hearing loss, Yuksel worries that children risk more long-term issues when they don't fully complete their speech and learning development. He estimates 15 percent of children under age 18 suffer some sort of noise-induced hearing loss.
"Basically, everyone should avoid noises that are too loud, too close or last too long," he stated.
People who attend a rock concert for longer than an hour at a sustained 115-decibel level can suffer damage to the inner ear. The result could be a temporary threshold shift (a brief loss of hearing) or tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). Most individuals tend to recover from these conditions; however, those with prolonged damage could suffer permanent hearing loss or ear ringing.
Yuksel suggests using ear plugs to minimize the effects of loud sounds. Some ear plugs can reduce sound by 20-30 decibels, while more expensive headphones can reduce sound even more.