If you spend more than an hour a day in deep intimacy with your iPod, your Zune, or some other MP3 machine, a group of important scientists would like you to turn it down and listen to them.
The EU's Scientific Committee on emerging health risks, which is normally concerned with noise in factories and the British Parliament, performed a study of MP3 usage.
The committee members' findings left them with a strange ringing feeling. They concluded that an hour's iPod usage a day for five years might make as many as 1 in 10 listeners deaf.
The problem, the committee believes, is that many people love to listen to their music too loud.
In Europe, MP3 players are limited to a mere 100 decibels. However, these European scientists concluded that anything above 89 decibels listened to with regularity has an effect that is louder than the limits imposed on factories.
Naturally, special-interest groups have already supported these findings. Britain's Royal National Institute for Deaf People already has a 'Don't Lose the Music' campaign to raise awareness of the need for lower decibels.
Those with a nonscientific bent might be be wondering whether this research was as comprehensive as it might have been. (After all, the European Union is a body that likes to control many things in its region--tomato size and cake displays, for example).
The iPod has been around since 2001. Presumably, therefore, there must be some people out there who have listened for an hour a day for five years. Would it be an idea to find them and ask them if they are deaf?
I ask only because when the Devil's racket, called rock music, came along, my ears were assaulted by older folk telling me that if I listened to Ozzie Osbourne, Deep Purple, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Jam, and Southside Johnny on a regular basis, I would lose my hearing. (I don't appear to have.)
What perplexed me was that these irritable, hairy-eared fogies who were nagging me to stop listening couldn't themselves hear very well. What had caused their deafness? It can't have been the Guns of Navarone in every case. And it can't have been Frank Sinatra, can it?
I do want to take this research seriously, however. Because, well, you never know.
Might I therefore ask readers to share whether they have noticed some alteration in their hearing since they have been a regular iPod or Zune ear stuffer? Are you turning increasingly deaf ears to the sounds that used to be a part of your everyday existence? Are you leaning forward a little more on dates, for reasons other than ones you recognize and respect? And are you using the phrases "excuse me?", "you what?" or "huh?" even more than usual?
We need to know whether this is more than just a theoretical issue. Still, there are always unintended pleasures that might come from overprotective regulation. Surely, you have often wanted to regulate that nodding youth next to you on a plane with his iPod cranked up beyond Metallica's tolerance. Especially when he's listening to some truly desperate trance bilge.
We need to work together on this one, people. Don't you agree? Huh?