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Portables Hardware Science

Is the iPod Generation Going Deaf? 632

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:29AM (#13554674)
    I have a pair of Bose Quietcomfort headphones, and I wonder if the noise cancelling is actually damaging my hearing. What do you think?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:31AM (#13554681)
      What did you say?
    • No, but it may be damaging your thinking.
    • Probably not (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jpardey ( 569633 )
      Even if they are active, they will just cancel out the external sounds. I am not sure how to work it out, but I would expect the energy to transfer to heat or somethin'. I would think that noise cancelling headphones would reduce hearing loss, as you don't need as much sound.
    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:01AM (#13554856)
      I'll make the typical audiophile quip: If you like the sound of Bose you have nothing to worry about, you're already deaf =)
      • I'll make the typical audiophile quip: If you like the sound of Bose you have nothing to worry about, you're already deaf =)

        This shouldn't be marked as funny. For people like truck drivers, machine operators, or generally anyone who's around whole bunches of loud noise the first thing to go sub-base to base followed by the high range. And these people, no insult intended, when picking out speakers that sound the best to them pick out things with a strong mid range. These are the people who can't tell th
      • 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.
        • 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 ) <hobbes@[ ]net.nl ['xms' in gap]> 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 mrjb ( 547783 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @09:44AM (#13556587)
            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.

            From a soundperson perspective I find this discussion 'A is better than B' a bit pointless. In a discussion "Bose vs Magnat", "Better" is relative.

            First of all recording technique makes a huge difference in this. In signals recorded with crossed microphones (x/y), locating the instrument is a piece of cake, though it might lack in 'spatial' feeling. When recorded with 2 parallel mics (A/B), things might sound very spatial but locating the panorama of the instrument in the stereo image is much harder. For this reason, most pop recordings are recorded in X/Y (mono compatible for radio play, good panning, does not sound very spatial) while most classical/jazz is recorded A/B (spatial sound but poor localization of instruments. Phase problems may occur, possible mono incompatibility).

            Something similar happens in playing back the sound. Bose designed their speakers to have an as large as possible 'sweet spot', resulting in a more consistent spatial sound across the room, however this is at the cost of localization of the instruments.

            The magnats have a relatively narrow 'sweet spot' compared to the bose speakers. As a result, localization of the instruments in a stereo image is more accurate, but the 'sweet spot' is much smaller.

            All other things left out of consideration, if accuracy in stereo image is your thing, you'll prefer the Magnats. If you prefer consistent sound all over the room, you'll prefer Bose.
    • by /ASCII ( 86998 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:06AM (#13555274) Homepage
      Since the headphones actually reduce the amount of sound, the are not damaging your hearing.

      On the other hand, since noise cancelling only works on low to mid frequency noise, and hearing loss is caused by high frequency sound, they aren't helping either.

      On the third hand, if you are using noise cancelling to allow you to listen to music at a lower volume in a noisy environment, then they might actually help out a bit.

      • 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... :-)
        • 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??

          Take a course in biology and you'll learn that high-frequency noises are indeed related to loss of hearing.

          The cochlea (inner ear) uses tiny "hair cells" to "catch" sounds (vibrations) and transform them into a signal that the auditory nerve can get to the brain. Different lengths of hair cells catch different wavelength of sound. Hi

      • by Thurn und Taxis ( 411165 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @09:36AM (#13556513) Homepage
        You're absolutely right that noise-reducing headphones most likely help rather than hurt. However, your statement about hearing loss being caused by high-frequency sound is incorrect. Loud low-frequency sound is much worse than loud high-frequency sound, because the loud sound has to travel along the entire length of the cochlea to reach its intended destination, and it causes damage along the way. The reason you lose high-frequency hearing first is that the high-frequency region of the cochlea is closest to where the sound comes in, so that every loud sound that hits your ears passes by that region and causes damage.

        Preventing significant hearing loss is easy - don't blast music, and give your ears a rest once in a while. It's kind of like not staring into the sun all day, but for your ears.
  • Go deaf. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mister Impressive ( 875697 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:30AM (#13554678)
    Win win situation. Listen to music until you're deaf, and then never be able to here your chatty coworkers again!
  • 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.
    • 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...

    • I think I've suffered slight hearing damage from too much time in nightclubs where the volume was way high.

      However, I never listen to portable music, not for the risk of hearing damage, but because it lowers concentration levels, I think. I spend most of my day thinking quite deeply about various things, and a constant soundtrack in the background interferes with that. Plus it's anti-social as it cuts out any interaction with people you don't know who might otherwise say "hello," along with all the litt
    • War Games, portable music... We really are still preoccupied with 1985!
    • "Nothing new hear"
      Pun intended I assume.
      I agree with you to the extent that this was my first reaction as well. But then I considered the difference between the iPod and the Walkman. I was there in 1984 and played Panama and Hot for Teacher (but not Jump) over and over and over.
      But I didn't have 20+ GB of music to listen to and play all day long like I do now.
      Maybe now that I'm in the late summer of my 30s I'm just getting older but it does seem like my hearing is going more now than it did back then.
  • Hello, Mcfly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Glendale2x ( 210533 ) <slashdot AT ninjamonkey DOT 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 AT alanisherwood DOT id DOT 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 mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:39AM (#13554733)
      It also doesn't help that iPods come with earbud-style headphones. If they came with larger ones that covered your ears, then you wouldn't have to turn the volume up so loud to hear it.
    • 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 dr
      • whats 300 bucks now if you lose your hearing tomorrow? 300 bucks is peanuts compared to hearing aids and doctor appointments, etc etc. trust me, i used to have a friend who was hard of hearing. (he got it when he was a kid and had a high fever, but my point still holds).

        As for the world getting noiser, yes it is. Cars with farting cans of bumble bees, increasing amounts of traffic, hvac, and more and more electronics/gadgets.

        go away to a national park for a week and come back to a major city. holy moly
      • I just bought these headphones: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00 0 065BP9/ [amazon.com]

        They offer really good sound isolation (I sat next to the engines in a loud airplane last month and when I wore them I heard almost nothing).

        They are a good alternative to sound cancellation - if you don't let sound in, you don't need to cancel it with iffy technology. Plus it costs less than 10% of the money and gives superb sound quality (not audiophile, but the best you can expect for less than a 100 imo).
      • in-ear-canal phones like the shure and etymonics do just as good a job in reducing outside noise as the active cancelling ones, plus have much better quality drivers to boot (and don't require batteries). My Shure e2c's are better that any headphone I've ever tried, and the volume on my jukebox seldom goes above 20%, compared to a around 70-80% with normal earbuds. And they only cost about US$70. The next up in the range are supposed heaps better still, but at a cost (one, day, she will be mine, oh yes)
    • 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%.

    • 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
    • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:58AM (#13554844) Journal
      It's not just mp3 players, it's car stereos (especially the 1000+ watt "boom cars") and loud exhausts. Some of the cars on the streets in my town can produce sound pressures that are actually painful -- from a distance of ten feet, in another car, with the windows up!!

      Even base stereo systems these days are 60+ watts. That's enough to cause substantial hearing loss in a matter of weeks if listened to repeatedly, for an hour or more per day.

      I can't even imagine how profound the boomcar boyz hearing loss must be. Not that I care... karma and all that.

      Ever attended a rock concert? It's a near certainty that you did permanent damage toyour high frequency hearing.

      Bring lawn tools into the equation (leaf blowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws, etc.) and that == more hearing loss.

      However, it's not just the under-thirty crowd. Many of our fathers served time in the military, when hearing protection meant sticking your finger in your ear before the guy next to you threw a grenade or fired a 30.06. Hearing loss didn't mean shit when your biggest concern was not being shot on a beach landing. The difference is the genX'ers are *choosing* to damage their hearing.
      • Riffle fire... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by all204 ( 898409 )
        I've spent 6 years as an infantry soldier and I can say that I do have hearing damage from it. The little yellow foamies that are given to us like candy do nothing for percussive sounds. (Riffle and machine gun fire, explosives like grenades, firing mortars, etc...) It even comes with a warning on the packages. The only thing that really works would be a combination of the foamies and the full sized earmuffs. Now, you cannot wear earmuffs with a helmet. So we wear the foamies when we can.
      • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:18AM (#13555968)
        The wattage doesn't matter. It's the decibels and proximity to the ear. Those iPod earbuds aren't anywhere near 6 watts, let alone 60 watts, yet they'll do plenty of damage.
    • I had the same problem. Try using canalphones. It lets you block out the outside noise, so you can maintain a low volume.
    • by labnet ( 457441 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @07:54AM (#13555837)
      I do sound engineering, and you need to be 6-12dB above ambient noise to hear something clearly. Thus if you are in traffic of 95dB and you headphones cut out say 5dB, you will still need around 100dB. This could be damaging. See the tables below.

      Environmental Noise
      Weakest sound heard 0dB
      Normal conversation (3-5') 60-70dB
      City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
      Train whistle at 500' 90dB
      Subway train at 200' 95dB
      Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 - 95dB
      Power mower 107dB
      Power saw 110dB
      Pain begins 125dB
      Pneumatic riveter at 4' 125dB
      Jet engine at 100' 140dB
      Death of hearing tissue 180dB
      Loudest sound possible 194dB

      OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
      Hours per day Sound level
      8h 90dB
      6h 92dB
      4h 95dB
      3h 97dB
      2h 100dB
      1.5h 102dB
      1h 105dB .5h 110dB .25h 115dB

      Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
      Imperceptible Change 1dB
        Barely Perceptible Change 3dB
      Clearly Noticeable Change 5dB
      About Twice as Loud 10dB
      About Four Times as Loud 20dB

      Sound Levels of Music
      Normal piano practice 60 -70dB
      Fortissimo Singer, 3' 70dB
      Chamber music, small auditorium 75 - 85dB
      Piano Fortissimo 84 - 103dB
      Violin 82 - 92dB
      Cello 85 -111dB
      Oboe 95-112dB
      Flute 92 -103dB
      Piccolo 90 -106dB
      Clarinet 85 - 114dB
      French horn 90 - 106dB
      Trombone 85 - 114dB
      Tympani & bass drum 106dB
      Walkman on 5/10 94dB
      Symphonic music peak 120 - 137dB
      Amplifier rock, 4-6' 120dB
      Rock music peak 150dB
  • Walkmen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by esaloch ( 733370 )
    Was this not a problem when the walkman was introduced or is our environment a lot noisier now? I'm just curious as it seems this would affect every generation since the walkman was introduced not just the "ipod generation". Then again, I admit I didn't rtfa.
    • That's what the article's about (or rather the article's parent on the major news feeds). iPod generation my butt. We're just getting the data in from the "Walkman generation", and sure enough:

      Hearing specialists say they're also seeing more people in their 30s and 40s -- many of them among the first Walkman users -- who suffer from more pronounced tinnitus, an internal ringing or even the sound of whooshing or buzzing in the ears.

      I didn't use my walkman that much, so my tinnitus isn't that bad.

  • 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.
  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:34AM (#13554696) Homepage
    Deafness is a useful adaption to the modern working environment. A touch of deafness blocks out the computer fans, the traffic noise, the endless airplanes flying overhead, the neighbour's kids, and the wife. The only problem is that it takes more and more volume to produce that "oh, yeah!"effect when listening to music. But that's someone else's problem.

    Personally, I went partly deaf at the age of 16 from spending too much time on a firing range. But most of my peers went similarly deaf not from the iPod, but from the Sony Walkman.

    This story is about 25 years too late. I guess each generation reinvents the "we went deaf because..." story.
  • 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].

  • er ... a marked movement for us as humans ... how'd their ears weather?

    Just asking.

    Your damange from your iPod isn't changing the planet ... at this time.
  • What the fuck, exactly, is the "iPod Generation"? Theres a whole generation that defines itself by its MP3 player now? Where are they and are their women cute, cos they sure ain't too smart.

    • What is the age Span of a generation? I know grandmothers and 5 year olds with iPods. So find the mean age and look one standard deviation each side and call that a generation?

      I wonder if these are the sames people that we the "Tamagotchi" generation only a few years ago.
      • A generation is the period from when a person is born to when they start having children, or something like that. I think the common acceptance is 30 years. I've had people 4 years younger than me telling me they were a different generation. The next generation is being born now, my fine redheaded stepchild, at least from my perspective. Whatever it is, it AIN'T what the marketroids tell you. And yes I'm talking to you MTV and Apple fans.

    • Where are they and are their women cute

      They're mostly dancing in front of single-color backdrops, and their women are pretty much just silhouettes
  • I love my music device, especially when I can glide past the ever annoying people trying to sell you something on the streets.

    Almost every street block now in Sydney, we have these hawkers that try to come up to with "with a question" or some other crap, now I just simply ignore them - and it doesnt seem as rude if you have something stuck in your ear!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:38AM (#13554723)
    They block outside noise by 23db, so you don't have to turn the music up to drown out the noise. I sometimes leave them in even without listening to music. They are nearly as good as a pair of headphone style hearing protectors.

    http://www.etymotic.com/ [etymotic.com]
    • by cbirkett ( 904502 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:11AM (#13554901) Homepage
      I was going to suggest exactly the same thing. My er6is are a godsend in noisy environments. When I stick them in my ears, I can't even hear a person talking beside me. An added bonus is that because there's no background noise, you don't need to turn up the volume as much. Of course, there are cons, like the inability to hear warnings, phones, and such, but you have to take that into account when you decide to use them. I keep the phone where I can see it ringing, keep an eye on the receptionist when I'm waiting for an appointment, etc. They're basically like earplugs that can play music.

      Etymotic also makes sound attenuators for use when you actually want to be able to hear what's going on. They reduce sound by approximately 20dB in a fairly linear way, which is great for obnoxiously loud concerts, clubs, etc. They're pretty cheap, too.
      • by Mark_in_Brazil ( 537925 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:52AM (#13556172)
        I got a 30GB 4G iPod ("The iPod Formerly Known As Photo") recently. A friend who works at Apple also recommended the ER6is, and I ended up getting a set of those too.
        The safety concerns are real. I probably wouldn't use them biking or around outside in a city, because you really can't hear what's going on around you. But on commercial airline flights, they are amazing. It can actually be startling to remove the earphones mid-flight and hear how loud the engines are. What's really weird is that you can indeed listen to your music at a volume that would be completely drowned out by the ambient noise without the isolating earphones.
        As mentioned in the parent and grandparent posts, Because of the noise isolation, you don't have to turn up the volume a lot. I've heard a few people complaining about the bass response, but I attribute this to two effects. First, many people are used to listening to music in a way that would be appropriate for those ridiculous cars with the monster sound systems whose bass you can hear from a distance of several km. But even more important, I think the people who complain about the ER6i bass haven't properly inserted the 'phones into their ears. I believe this is a common problem. I've seen it mentioned in a few reviews of the ER6is, and Etymotic Research is even including a slip of yellow paper in the ER6i packaging now with the following message:

        For Best results:

        Be sure to obtain a good seal.
        Without it, you will not have an optimal bass response.

        In some cases, slightly moistening the white eartips will help improve the seal in your ear canals.
        So if you're researching ER6i earphones (and possibly other noise isolating earphones) online, and you read reviews saying they have "no bass" or something similar, keep this in mind.
        Etymotic even makes optional smaller and larger eartips to allow for the correct placement and seal in ears that the standard eartips don't fit just right.
        I do recognize that bass may be in the ear of the beholder, so YMMV. It's best if you can find somebody you trust and ask that person's opinion. I was fortunate to have the ER6i earphones recommended to me by somebody whose opinion I've come to trust, and I've been more than satisfied with them.
  • Ironic (Score:2, Funny)

    by gpw213 ( 691600 )
    I followed the link to the Wired News article, and the ad on the side of the page was for the iPod nano.
  • by Talondel ( 693866 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:41AM (#13554746)
    Didn't I read this same story about Walkman's 20 years ago? And didn't they decide the effects were negligable? Oh yeah I did. Abstract from a study in 1987: Krahenbuhl D, Arnold W, Fried R, Chuden H. Investigations on 50 high school students showed that this group had been using the "Walkman" only 1.5 h. per day during the last 14 months. A comparison of the audiometric results obtained with these 50 "Walkman" users, with those of 20 age-related non-"Walkman" users, showed no statistically significant differences. The investigation further revealed that to avoid hearing loss, an upper threshold level of 93 dB (A) should not be exceeded for a daily "Walkman" user time of two hours. PMID: 3613781 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  • Dunno, but I typed this on my Braille keyboard.
  • Then again, this iPod goes to 11.
  • by Mustang Matt ( 133426 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @02:50AM (#13554793)
    I don't have an ipod, but I do listen to music through headphones. I'm a bit hard of hearing and for the past year or so when I listen to music I play it at the absolute lowest volume that I can hear it. Maybe it's just in my mind but I've noticed an improvement in my hearing. Not to mention it's less of a distraction to my development (and/or slashdot postings).

    Consequently, this behavior makes me realize that I need a quieter PC case. I've got a home made hack job case too many fans. I think it's time to upgrade to a professionally built case that would be quieter but I'm still having a hard time justifying dumping $150-$300 on a case.

    After that I've still got fish tanks that make a significant amount of noise. Not much I can do about that other than keep the water levels full or get rid of them alltogether.
    • Consequently, this behavior makes me realize that I need a quieter PC case.

      A while back I tried to figure out how to do this on the cheap; I eventually ended up with the computer box in the attic, with long wires connecting up the keyboard and monitor. USB was ideal for I/O, but I didn't have a USB CD drive so instead I used a slightly over-spec IDE cable --- which eventually turned out to be unreliable if I had DMA turned on, which was less than ideal. If I were doing it today, I'd use Firewire.

      It was

  • 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:


  • Careful folks, these iPods are just a hint of things to come. iPod listeners are sure to move onto harder stuff-- their fiendish desires will lead them to actual *concerts* where large speakers will jackhammer their tender little eardrums to oblivion.

    iPods don't make people deaf; really really loud sounds make people deaf.

  • They said the same about walkmans back in the day. I'd like to see some real statistics about how many people went deaf from walkman listening, then some real statistics about how many went deaf from portable music player listening, then maybe I'll start paying attention. Until then, all this is just yet another guy's need for attention.
  • 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.
  • by panurge ( 573432 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @03:10AM (#13554899)
    I'm deliberately starting a new top level thread because the previous poster on this is getting negative moderation on some of the replies, and there is then no point in responding to them.

    Noise cancelling headphones if correctly implemented are rather more complex than just inserting an inverted signal. For the record, I am deaf (artillery and large engines, as if you care) and because of the strange hole in my hearing response I use a digital hearing aid. The configuration screen for programming this runs to a number of pages, and I can have it set to include or exclude things like refrigerator and fan noise. In fact, I have one program that does optimised noise cancelling to get the best speech response, and another that does no noise cancelling which is useful for music and for checking that things like HDDs are making the right noises.
    Noise cancelling technology is already used in professional telephone headsets, and I am surprised that it is missing from iPods and the like. It would be easy enough to have a button which switched between cancelling and not cancelling external noise sources and which, like my hearing aid, has a setting which allows through a sudden loud noise when in N/C mode, as a safety factor in traffic. This would mean the ability to listen at lower volume levels in noisy conditions.

    I have a local inductive loopset (one of the few good things to come out of Nokia in my view) which allows me to use the cell phone and to inject another sound source. With the hearing aid switched to inductive pickup only, and to block external sound, I can make a phone call in noisy conditions without difficulty.

    Conclusion: the technology exists to fix these problems and enable people to listen at lower volumes, manufacturers just can't be bothered.

    • one problem. once you inject all that noise cancelation, any audiophile with 20/10 hearing is going to snort in disgust at how bad it sounds vs "unfiltered, 500 dollar amped" stuff.
  • 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.
    • Re:Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rsborg ( 111459 )
      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.

      Not sure if this is the case with noise-isolators, but I have a pair of the early (gimmicky) Sony ND-5's (noicse canceling)... but they're impossible to use with the noise-cancelling on in a car... the anti-noise circuit is too slow, resulting in a choppy sound... happens sometimes in planes

    • Tinnitus (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lheal ( 86013 )

      I have tinnitus [wikipedia.org], "ringing in the ears". I hear a constant sound, like a high-pitched squeal, all the time. It's worse when the ambient noise is low, but I barely notice it when there's noise around. In a very quiet place the sound I perceive can be very intense.

      It comes from damage to degeneration of the nerves in the inner ear, or so I've been told.

      Any constant, low-level sound tends to "mask" the ringing, so I can ignore it. Riding in a car with the windows down or in an airplane I don't notice

  • 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 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.
    • Don't forget about:
      • people in cars with the loud, thumping stereos
      • import tuners with the whining exhausts
      • the motorcylcists on Harley's without mufflers
      • sport bike street racers with the extra loud exhausts
      • Gamers with 500W 6.1 surround sound systems
      • Data center workers.
      • Computer geeks with the 8 PCs running 24/7 with 4 fans and 4 HDs per box
      • Live music lovers who go to show at 150dB
      • Club-goers dancing to music at 130dB

      You better believe it is a growth industry. I am looking for some good companies to invest in.

  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:01AM (#13555075) Homepage
    People will look at you funny, but earplugs with headphones is the right answer. You can eliminate all the background noise, and play the music at a level that (after passing through the earplugs) is safe. Foam earplugs are available at drugstores - 20 - 30 pairs for about 6 dollars. To really do it right, get a nice pair of circumaural headphones like Sennheisers.
  • Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meburke ( 736645 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:02AM (#13555078)
    I've been thinking about this for years, in a minor way off and on, and I'm still waiting for someone to invent a good feedback system for hearing level. If the music can be heard clearly at 80-85db, thenit is probably safe, right? However, all the studies I've seen measure db in the environment, not the energy approaching the ear. And if you're wearing earphones, how do you prevent hearing loss when you don't know what you are delivering to your ear?

    Reactive noise-cancelling earphones would seem to be a good idea, especially if they can reduce the ambient noise to 50 or 60db and alow music to be heard at less than 85db. In fact, without music, I would be relieved sometimes to have noise-cancelling headphones to simply provide some near-silence. It would be a worthy project for competent technicians to come up with an inexpensive (less than $20) noise-cancelling headphone with signal contrast (outside noise less than 50db to inside noise less than 85db), easy equalization, and galvanic skin response sensors to indicate when the music was causing discomfort. (GSR might not be sufficient. Many recent studies showed that the type of music listened to can produce a variety of emotional and chemical responses ranging from peaceful, healthy, joyful to irritated, angry and unhealthy. Here's a a different question: If you knew loud rap and metallic rock were as bad for your system over the long run as cigarettes, would you quit listening to it?) An article written in layman's terms with good references can be found here: http://www.headwize.com/articles/hearing_art.htm [headwize.com].

    Although the general consensus is that much hearing loss is irrepairable, I have heard rumors of people recovering some hearing ability by listening to specific music. (I think I first saw this in a book called "Superlearning 2000", and have heard subjective reports since then, but I haven't noticed any scientific papers.) Also, if high-frequency loss is a problem to you, I've heard good things about Echophone.
  • Obvious? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @04:27AM (#13555143)

    Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital determined that listening to a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of its potential volume for one hour a day is relatively safe.

    60%! I would have thought it was bloody obvious that going over 60% of an iPod's volume was a danger area. I just tried mine at around that volume with the normal headphones and found it uncomfortably loud. Apart from anything else, I could tell which song was playing from the other side of the room, so anyone listening that loud on public transport deserves to go deaf.
    I had always assumed that the only reason it went so loud was for powering external speakers etc.

  • by Dark Coder ( 66759 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:06AM (#13555269)
    You do not want to exceed 95 dB, ever: EVER!

    Take it from a deaf person whose hearing loss is averaged as 64 dB at 20Hz down to 95 @ 8 KHz. That is the surveyed threshold for a lifelong usage of a hearing aid without losing ones remaining hearing (thus rendering such hearing useless).

    Hearings is not recoverable as the many tiny cilia hair nerves gets shortened at greater than 95 dB due to excessive POUNDING of the noise whipping these reed-like cilia back and forth (tearing or cutting off blood flows) as amplified by your middle ear bones and outer ear's ear drum.

    Protect your ears, take it from a deaf person. It is career threatening in your mid-life. No need to get another cow during your mid-life crisis.

    Cholear implant (CI) is a proven technology, but a bothersome hinderance to those late-deafened teens and adult as they did not grow up accustomed to these CI outfits. (Doable, but takes longer to get accustomed to these CI). CI is not a perfect replacement as you would get 32 channels (more later) spread across the sound spectrum but with GAPS in between. Computer/signal processors back-fills in these inter-channel gaps (not pleasant to a true classic music afficiandos).

    Keep it down... It might save your life.

    Don't get hit by a bus because you're IPODing. (interesting tidbits: 422 deaf people were killed by bus.)
  • by rklrkl ( 554527 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:06AM (#13555272) Homepage
    I believe (though trying to find it on www.eu.int [eu.int] looks tricky !) that the EU has statutory maximum volume limits on audio devices where headphones can be attached (but I could be wrong on this). Mind you, I just bought a new MP3 player [mymemory.co.uk] that is "comfortable" volume in the 15-25 range, but it can go to ear-bleeding "40", which I suspect is way above the EU limits. Strange, though, because I have another player [mymemory.co.uk] that the same site sells and that's got a much lower maximum volume.
  • European ipods (Score:3, Informative)

    by BlightThePower ( 663950 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @05:33AM (#13555359)
    are locked to a maximum "safe" volume. You can unlock them if you want but I've never felt the need myself. I suppose its American-libertarian to let you deafen yourself when you damn well want to be deafened or something.
  • by Kaldaien ( 676190 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @06:09AM (#13555469)
    I have mild hearing damage in my left ear, unrelated to headphones. In my case, it has to do with years of practicing the violin without an earplug in my left ear (which is most vulnerable to damage in violinists).

    Nevertheless, I think the iPod generation is in luck, because they are also one of the first generations where genetic therapy is not purely science fiction. In the past couple of years, researchers discovered that the production of a protein (Rb1) was responsible for the behaviour shared by the inner ear hair cells of all mammals, or more to the point... the reason the hair cells do not divide and hearing does not regenerate. Recently scientists discovered the gene that was responsible for producing this protein in mice. Given 5 to 10 years, I am optimistic the naive iPod generation, senior citizens and even I will be eligible for gene therapy to reverse the effects of hearing loss.

    It is important to protect your hearing, but damage is inevitable no matter how careful you are. Luckily, for musicians and the ignorant iPod generation, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon :)
  • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) * on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @08:28AM (#13556039)

    I don't understand why the noise cancellation headphones are so popular. They just reduce the background, making the cellphone shouters more clearly audible.

    I use gray noise - equalized pink noise (See the Wiki [wikipedia.org]). It covers up everything with an even background that you forget you're even hearing. Turns a busy office into an acoustic oasis. Even better is to pop in some plugs on top of that.
  • by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @11:42AM (#13557688)
    I have worked several jobs wehre there was EXTREME loud noise at the jobsite(within 10 feet of unmuffled generators and a carousel pipe organ that could be heard 2 miles away). I always wore earplugs, the simple wax or foam ones from the drugstore. I was the only guy on the job that did. Whenever i had to listen to something, i would remove the right earphone, I always kept the left one in. Additionally, when out walking around, i only use the right headphone of my walkman. I can notice a diffrence in the hearin on the right and left sides of my own head from the minor damage over the years. The hearing in my left ear is much more acute overall, and can hear frequencies that the right one cant.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"