Another sobbering article about MP3 players and hearing loss, last week from the Washington Post: The iPod and the Fury. Along with the amazing sales figure for Apple's audio toy, Gregory Mott notes that hearing loss has been on the rise even before the I-Pod, most likely not just because our ambience has become louder but also because we had plenty of time to play with Walkmans before that.
And how upfront was Apple about this problem? "Apple declined to provide information on the maximum output level for its devices, and noted that the federal government does not require manufacturers to provide such information to consumers." Rumors are that because Steve Jobs himself has hearing problems, when he did the initial tests for the Pod, he had the engineers boost up the volume so he get it at an acceptible level for himself.
Along with stats for decibles, the article also provides a practical test for how loud a player shouldn't be: "If you're standing across an elevator cab -- that's about three feet away -- if you can hear someone else's music, that person is giving themselves a hearing loss."
Sad to say, what usually happens is that people crank up the music to block out the surrounding noise. The end result is that the average volume that was found for people listening to players was double (!) that of what the level should be to prevent hearing loss.
It's worth repeating that since the effects of prolonged exposure to loud music doesn't really manifest itself until years after the fact, it's more than likely than in say, the next 10-20 years, there's a gonna to be a boom business for Audiologists. A decent hearing aide goes for about $1000 right now. Not to worry 'cause your health insurance will cover that, right?
Wrong. A good friend of mine just went through this situation and found that her insurance (a major insurer by the way) does NOT cover hearing aides, even for pre-existing conditions (i.e. things that happen before you take your present job). That means that when the time comes, you're gonna have to dig into your own pocket to pay for this. Aides only last for a few years so you're gonna have to shell out for this as a recurring expense again and again. Not to sound dim about this but you might wanna set aside a tinnitus fund for yourself now if you're a regular Pod user and don't see a need to listen at low volumes.