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New study questions extent of iPod-induced hearing loss

Have you heard? Apparently iPods cause hearing loss. A Journal of the American Medical Association study published in August found that 14.9 percent of teenagers aged 12-19 suffered from hearing loss from 1988-94; 19.5 percent of the same age group had hearing loss from 2005-06. Throw in another statistic, a 100 percent increase in the number of iPods in existence from 2005-06 as compared to 1988-94, and it's clear what's behind this statistically significant rise in teen hearing loss.

Or maybe it's not so clear, after regarding a meta-study from the University of Minnesota. Researchers there found that 15 percent of the university's marching band members suffered from hearing loss, but after tracking them for a year and averaging out multiple test results, researchers found that more than half of the noise-induced hearing loss disappeared. Those same researchers said that false positive results can account for around 10 percent of the 14.9 percent hearing loss discovered in the 1988-94 JAMA study.

Listening to anything at a high volume for a long enough period of time will induce hearing loss. That goes for your car stereo, speakers blaring at a concert, and yes, iPods. Are more people listening to music via headphones now versus 1988-94? Probably. Is a portion of that increase due to the iPod's popularity? Almost definitely. Does that automatically mean there's an epidemic of iPod-induced teen deafness? It certainly sounds like a plausible theory, but with one study already questioning the JAMA results, the question is far from settled.

I will say that I'm occasionally astonished at the volume of music bleeding from people's white earbuds as they pass by. I can't listen to music on my iPhone at more than about 60 percent of maximum before it starts to hurt my ears, so I can't imagine what kind of damage these people are doing to their hearing. There's really no excuse for it, either. If you've got a child with an iPod, setting a volume limit on it is trivial. And if you're just trying to drive away the noise of the outside world, a decent set of canalphones is a whole lot cheaper and more convenient in the long run than a hearing aid.

[via Cult of Mac]

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