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Portables Hardware Science

Is the iPod Generation Going Deaf? 632

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the welcome-your-hearing-aid-dependant-overlords dept.
prozac79 writes "Ars Technica and Wired News are both running interesting articles on how personal music players are a major contributor [ArsTechnica] to early hearing loss [Wired]. According the ArsTechnica article, an increasing number of people are now living in "noisy" environments that is only made worse by blocking it out with even louder music. The article also suggests that listening to music for one hour a day is considered safe. So now you have a choice... go deaf early or go insane listening to your coworkers chatter."
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Is the iPod Generation Going Deaf?

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  • 1985 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:31AM (#13554682)
    Is the Walkman Generation Going Deaf?

    US News and World Report and Newsweek are both running interesting articles on how personal tape players are a major contributor [US News] to early hearing loss [Newsweek]. According the US News article, an increasing number of people are now living in "noisy" environments that is only made worse by blocking it out with even louder music. The article also suggests that listening to music for one hour a day is considered safe. So now you have a choice... go deaf early or go insane listening to your coworkers chatter."

    Nothing new hear, we've been getting this since at least 1980. There are likely stories about how the photograph, motion picture "talkie", transister radio and lord knows whatelse cause problems.
  • Hello, Mcfly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Glendale2x (210533) <slashdot.ninjamonkey@us> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:32AM (#13554687) Homepage
    Uhm... yes? If I can hear the music clearly from your earbuds across the room, your "coolness factor" (apparently consisting of making sure everyone can hear your really loud rap music) will not prevent hearing damage. I say let 'em. Common sense will prevail for the rest of us.
  • by miaDWZ (820679) * <alan@noSPAm.alanisherwood.id.au> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:32AM (#13554691) Homepage
    I find, when walking down the street - that I've got my iPod's volume up to the highest level. It's not because I really like the song, and want to hear it really loudly, but rather, I can't hear it if I turn it down at all. Simply because of the passing traffic is so noisy.

    Had I kept the iPod down to a lower level, say at 0.75 or 0.5 - then I simply wouldn't be able to hear it - so, perhaps the problem is not the music players, but rather, an increase in noise from other locations? For example, traffic?

    Is the world itself getting noisier?
  • by Nutria (679911) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:33AM (#13554694)
    go deaf early or go insane listening to your coworkers chatter.

    Or wear ear plugs.

    It'll be difficult for some people to stop wearing headsets. You get used to the "company", and become a bit nervous when there's silence.
  • Misbranded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gunpowda (825571) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:34AM (#13554697)
    This could happen regardless of whether you use a portable music device or not. Anyone who goes out to clubs will be exposed to loud music anyway, and in that kind of setting you can't control the volume.

    I believe EU iPods have a volume limit anyway, but this is easily removed [archive.org].

  • Re:1985 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nutria (679911) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:37AM (#13554721)
    Nothing new hear, we've been getting this since at least 1980.

    I am hard of hearing, and I lay the blame squarely on myself for, in the late 70s/early 80s, slapping on headphones and cranking up the volume.

    My parents warned me, but of course I didn't pay attention...
  • by Neil Blender (555885) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:45AM (#13554774)
    When I was a teenager, I worked in a wood processing plant during the summer. It was really loud and everyone wore hearing protection. I started using a walkman and played it really loud to cover the noise. I was quickly warned that anecdotal evidence (experience of people working at that particular plant) suggested that that was a very bad idea. I switched to ear plugs.

    As for the world being noisier, I think it is. Get a pair of Bose noise reduction headphones and try them in your office. Once the drone of your computer, any other office machines and the HVAC goes away, it gets pretty quiet. The difference between wearing the headphones turned off (no noise reduction) and turned on (with noise reduction) is amazing. Plus, if you have an ipod, I can't imagine the sound being worse for you than having earbuds jammed in your ear. In addition, the noise reduction allows you to listen at a lower volume. The downside is they cost $300 but I say worth every cent.
  • The 80s called ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:50AM (#13554796) Journal
    ... they want their discussion back :)

    Seriously: I was born 1969 and clearly are part of the walkman generation, using one (OK, cheap copycats) from the mid 80s till the early 90s. Then I exposed my ears to techno parties :-P Whenever they check my hearing at the doctor or hospital they are surprised how good I hear considered my age.

    So let me say:

    Bah.

  • by earnest murderer (888716) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:51AM (#13554802)
    Had I kept the iPod down to a lower level, say at 0.75 or 0.5 - then I simply wouldn't be able to hear it - so, perhaps the problem is not the music players, but rather, an increase in noise from other locations? For example, traffic?

    Headphones with active noise canceling will help with that. Where I used to keep the volume at 75% or more, I now rarely bump it above 30%.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:57AM (#13554840)
    I like quiet, so sometimes I use noise cancelling headphones. Good ones can be expensive but worth it to keep my sanity - plus I have a reason not to hear the phone :)

    Anyway, on the few times I use it to play music versus regular pairs of headphone, I notice that I don't have to set the volume up nearly as much.

    Even when a TV is blaring in the next room.

    Note: I don't know if those things fit an iPod or portable music player in general as I don't have one..... but mine uses a battery in of itself, so I see no problem.
  • by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:01AM (#13554860)
    If you are so anti-social that you feel that your coworkers' chatting is driving you insane

    I don't know about you, but I find a twenty minute "chat" about the latest goings-on of Survivor or the some other reality show to be about all it takes to drive me nuts. Especially when the "chat" involves someone who hasn't done a 5 minute task I asked them to do three days ago but has found time to have numerous other "chats" in addition to lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc.
  • inadvertent danger (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ctime (755868) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:08AM (#13554885)
    This is a similar comparison to the thoery that cell phones might give you some kind of brain cancer. It's still highly disputed and nobody can be too certain, there is logic to it but it's hard to prove either way when dealing with sublties of the human body (obviously this isn't always the case)

    The real dangers lie with people inadvertantly exposing themselves to danger because they are effectively disabling an important sensory organ.

    Take hiking/running in the desert with a music player on full blast, how the world are you going to hear a rattle snake or other really pissed-off animal or reptile. conversely how can anyone tell if a car has just ramped on the sidewalk behind you while jogging in manhattan?

    You've essentially reduced yourself to someone who is deaf. Although...when compared to listening to my coworkers....gimme the friggin thing on full blast.
  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Biotech9 (704202) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:10AM (#13554900) Homepage
    Noise cancelling or isolating headphones.

    Etymotic, Shure and Koss all make noise isolating headphones, which are generally cheaper and have higher quality sound than noise cancelling gimmicks like the Bose headsets.

    Basically, you put in a set of these ear-canal plugs, you hear nothing but the music, and therefore can listen to your music at far lower levels in noisy environments than you would be able to with normal open or closed can style headphones.

    The isolation from the Etymotic ER-4p/s for example, is 44 decibels, which is phenomenal. I own a pair of Er-4ps myself, and have used them a lot while travelling, and have to say that spending 300 euro on a set of headphones does not look like a waste of cash once you get up to 30,000 feet in a packed Airbus.

    The isolation is so complete that it's shocking to hear the noise levels that everyone else is being exposed to once you pull the headphones out after a period of use.

    Not to mention the fantastic sound quality.
  • by antdude (79039) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:12AM (#13554905) Homepage Journal
    I was born with hearing impediment so I have to wear a bone conduction hearing aid since I cannot hear well. Let's just say you would have to yell at me just to talk to me. I can hear music from loud concerts, loud movie theaters, loud churches, etc.

    Anyways, I can always turn off my hearing aid if things get too loud. :) I could have a surgery to regain hearing but I think I will use my partial deafness as an advantage. Turn it off, and poof. Less audio to hear for me.

    Although wearing hearing aid can be annoying (e.g., changing batteries, fall off if I shake my head, hurt a lot if wearing too much, my head gets itchy, etc.).
  • by Nybble's Byte (321886) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:31AM (#13554971) Journal
    Don't kid around. If you can get an operation to restore your hearing even just partially, do it. Naturally you'll lose hearing as tinnitus sets in with age, but if you don't take advantage of what you can today you'll regret it. Life is full of all kinds of sounds, not just loud ones, and if others can't communicate emotions softly to you and you can't hear birds chirping and leaves rustling, you're missing a lot.
  • by britneys 9th husband (741556) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:58AM (#13555065) Homepage Journal
    Can someone suggest some good hearing aid companies to invest in? Should be quite a growth industry in the future.

    All those boomers that didn't listen to their parents telling them to turn the music down... they're getting up to retirement age now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:11AM (#13555099)
    You don't think that drowning out the sound of passing traffic when walking down the street has the potential to damage more than just your hearing?

    I personally would rather be able to hear the sound of an oncoming car, hear that there is a bicycle/jogger/dog/low-flying aeroplane/impending mugger so I am aware of their presence and react accordingly.

    I've seen people step in front of a bicycle (in this case changing their position on a pathway, not stepping across a road), despite the fact the cyclist rang their bell, because they could not hear the cyclist approaching due to a music player. A rather ugly incident for both individuals concerned.

    It might be deemed quite appropriate to block out all sound and immerse yourself in music so as to be almost unaware of your surrounding environment, but that environment will remain aware of you.

    Whenever using my iPod I want it at a level where I can hear what's going on around me.

    Rockin' Az - not logged in.
  • by Marvin_OScribbley (50553) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:15AM (#13555119) Homepage Journal
    whats 300 bucks now if you lose your hearing tomorrow? 300 bucks is peanuts

    If you don't have 300 bucks, I would said 300 bucks is a lot!
  • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:20AM (#13555129)
    by their inevitable disdain of mid-high quality but mainstream XYZ products.

    Whether we are talking about speakers, wine, chocolate, cars, or golf clubs, there is nothing the aficionado hates more than anything in his or her realm of expertise that is pretty good and reasonably priced, as it undermines the value of their hard-earned knowledge.
  • I'm OK (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:33AM (#13555168) Homepage Journal
    The plural of anecdote is not data.
  • by Flakeloaf (321975) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:34AM (#13555171) Homepage
    This has nothing to do with BOSE being mainstream and hating it therefore becoming chic and everything to do with the fact that consumer-level BOSE equipment really is crap.
  • by hcdejong (561314) <`ln.tensmx' `ta' `sebboh'> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:25AM (#13555336)
    Nice try, but this doesn't apply to Bose. Their good reputation stems entirely from marketing. In fact, their products are mediocre at best, certainly not 'pretty good'.
    Bose tends to market their products using technobabble that impresses the mainstream consumer, but is absolutely ludicrous to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of acoustics. Their 'surround with 2/3 speakers' claims are a good example: it doesn't bloody work!
    Try comparing Bose products to equipment that costs the same, but is produced without the technobabble influence. Mainstream stuff will do, nothing exotic is necessary. The Bose stuff won't sound better.

    I did this once with a set of Bose 301 speakers versus a set of Magnat Concept 2 speakers (about $100/pair cheaper than the Bose set). The Magnats had a much more linear frequency response, the Bose really emphasized the midrange frequencies too much. The Bose's direct/reflecting system made them sound unfocused: close your eyes and you've no idea where the sound comes from. With a good system, you should be able to point out where the instruments are - can't do this with the Bose, piece of cake with the Magnats.
    Also the Magnats were far less fatiguing to listen to (side effect of the flat frequency response).
  • by asbjxrn (825716) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:48AM (#13555400)
    Bose tends to market their products using technobabble that impresses the mainstream consumer, but is absolutely ludicrous to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of acoustics.

    As opposed to "audoiphile" marketers using sciencebabble that impresses the audiophile consumer, but is absolutely ludicrous to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of physics.
  • by Two99Point80 (542678) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:08AM (#13555669) Homepage
    The problem there is that the "good" sound gets attenuated just as much as the "bad" sound. Instead of drowning out background noise by brute force, try using headphone-style noise reducers over on- or in-ear headphones. Better signal-to-noise ratio that way, so the sound oughta be cleaner.
  • by Two99Point80 (542678) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:23AM (#13555722) Homepage
    I can't even imagine how profound the boomcar boyz hearing loss must be. Not that I care... karma and all that.

    I used to feel the same way, until I started noticing the infants strapped into their car seats right in front of the subs. A case could be made for that being some degree of child abuse... and I don't think it's just the risk of hearing loss. What does long-term exposure to such loud sound do to a child's - or an adult's - endocrine system, and what are the social consequnces of that?

  • s/world/people/ (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:23AM (#13555723) Homepage
    I find, when walking down the street - that I've got my iPod's volume up to the highest level. It's not because I really like the song, and want to hear it really loudly, but rather, I can't hear it if I turn it down at all. Simply because of the passing traffic is so noisy.

    And you know what is really sad? If, after some years (or decades, if you're lucky) you find that your hearing has suffered irreversible, non-repairable damage, that a big (if not the biggest) part of it was inflicted upon yourself, by yourself. Say what?

    You turn the volume up to 'overpower' the background noise, right? In order for that to work, the volume will have to be at least equally strong as the background noise. It helps that you use earphones (which greatly reduce the background noise), but from the sound that enters your ears, most was produced by yourself. And so will any hearing damage that results from it.

    To avoid long-term hearing damage, there's only 1 way: reduce that background level. And you don't have to be kind to the ones causing it - it's your health and well-being (and that of many others) they are damaging. Maybe not as bad, but no different from someone pouring a container with poison into a local park.

    Is the world itself getting noisier?

    I'd argue not (see subject). It's more that people are making lots of noise wherever they go. The noisiest places are often the same as those with large concentrations of people (big cities, pop concerts). And mostly there's little you can do about it. You want peace and quiet? Then put some distance between yourself and your fellow human beings.
  • Re:Heh, the irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zerocool^ (112121) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:52AM (#13556173) Homepage Journal
    Have you ever tried comparing a Bose system with anything else? You know, actually do listening tests?

    I have. I worked in the Audio department for about a year at Best Buy.

    For starters, bose dictated sale prices to best buy - best buy couldn't just choose to put them on sale; they had to put them on sale when Bose corporate said to, which is why the circulars always said "All Speakers Onsale*" *except bose.

    And the no highs, no lows, must be Bose does hold true. I am by no means an audiophile, but even my damn-near deaf due to rock concerts ears can tell they suck. I mean, the 201's and 301's aren't terrible speakers, but they are a bit muddy and much more expensive than, say, a pair of JBL bookshelfs that sound better.

    The crux of the matter is the Lifestyles systems, though. The bass tube with the little cubes? Ugh. You're not going to get good bass out of a 6.5" woofer, especially if it's the unpowered one. If you do a sound sweep from like 50 hz to 50 khz, you're going to hear huge dropoff points all over the place. They just sound bad. Which would be acceptable for consumer electronics, if they were cheap, but they're upwards of $1000! The one with the dual cubes and the powered sub was $1300 when I worked there, and I bet it hasn't gotten cheaper. Give me $1300, and I'll get you some relatively inexpensive Sony tower speakers for front and rear, and a JBL center channel and 10" sub, and give you $400 back, and it'll sound vastly better (just going off of the brands that were there when I worked there). I know that sony and JBL aren't excellent names in home theater, but jesus, they're a far cry better than Bose.

    It's not an audiophile thing. It's a listen to it and say ugh thing.

    ~Will
  • by sczimme (603413) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @09:06AM (#13556287)

    hearing loss is caused by high frequency sound

    Hearing loss is caused by a number of factors; yes, loud sound can do it, but high_volume != high_frequency. Where did you unearth this particular piece of mis-information??

    According to the the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [asha.org] there are at least seven causes of hearing loss in adults. PS, "high frequency sound" is not on the list.

    Neither is "marriage", but that's a topic for another time... :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:45PM (#13559433)
    I've use the $900 Bose, the $200 Bose and the Wal-mart specials. There is a huge difference. The high end Bose are completely quiet. Most commercial pilots use these for obvious reasons. Low end Bose are still 100 times better than the wal-mart specials. They don't completely cancel jet engines but they do make it really quiet and can cancel every single annoying office sound.
    I don't disagree that they are super pricey but there is a difference.

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