March 14, 2006 10:13 AM PST

Don't blare that MP3 player, researchers warn

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Apple faces suit over iPod-related hearing loss

February 2, 2006

Apple pulls iPod in France

September 30, 2002
WASHINGTON--The warning here from a panel of politicians and hearing-loss researchers rang loud and clear: Turn down that iPod.

Or at the very least, don't blare the Apple Computer gadget or other portable media players for hours on end, and think about investing in a pair of headphones designed to block background chatter and, in theory, stifle the need to crank up the volume in the first place.

Concern over hearing damage wreaked by noisy personal electronics is nothing new, but the booming sales of MP3 players and other such headphone-dependent gadgets could prompt a whole new breed of danger, audiologists cautioned at a press conference hosted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA.

Some evidence, they said, lies in a new ASHA-commissioned survey, released at Tuesday's event, about the listening habits of 1,000 adults and 301 high schoolers. Random telephone interviews found that just more than half of the youngsters and less than 40 percent of the adults had experienced at least one of four hearing-loss symptoms. Those symptoms included ringing in the ears, saying "what" or "huh" during "normal" conversation, and turning up the volume on their television or radio.

The survey doesn't attribute the symptoms directly to the portable gadgets. It merely suggests the possibility of a connection--noting, for instance, that 40 percent of both students and adults reported setting their Apple iPods at what they'd consider "somewhat loud" or "extremely loud" volume levels. When the question was broadened to MP3 players in general, that number rose to about 60 percent of teenagers and fell to about one-third of adults surveyed.

The new gadgets are especially ripe for additional study because of such factors as the ever-growing life of players' batteries, which promotes longer playback time, and the popular use of close-fitting earbuds, panelists said.

"Little research has been done on the impact of this new technology," said Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with technology issues. "We need to make sure that when millions of consumers plug up their ears to travel to work or work out, they are not taking on too much for their ears to handle."

Excessive noise to blame
Speaking at Tuesday's press conference, Markey and New Jersey Republican Mike Ferguson both pledged to push for greater research and education on the issue. In late January, Markey called on the National Institutes of Health to investigate a number of questions about possible connections between the newer portable media players and premature hearing loss. According to ASHA statistics, excessive noise is to blame for at least one-third of the more than 30 million Americans who report having significant hearing loss.

In a response to Markey's request released on Tuesday, James Battey, director of NIH's National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, indicated that he agreed with the need for additional research--particularly on whether the earbuds frequently used with iPods pose any more harm to the ears than do traditional "earmuff-style" ones.

Such a setback in youngsters can prove especially devastating, said Anne Marie Tharpe, a Vanderbilt University audiology researcher. Her department recently studied 1,200 children deemed to have "minimal" hearing loss and found they had lower standardized test scores, greater stress and behavioral problems, and lower energy levels and self-esteem than their "normal-hearing" peers, she said.

Apple, for its part, already faces a class action lawsuit backed by a group of iPod users seeking compensation for hearing damage they claim was caused by the devices.

The suit alleges, among other things, that Apple has not limited the device's sound output to a safe decibel level for its American customers, despite complying with the French government's 100-decibel cap. (For comparison's sake, a chainsaw, a snowmobile and a motorcycle each produce about 100 decibels of noise, according to ASHA statistics.)

The U.S. Congress would be wise to consider requiring such limits, said Northwestern University audiology researcher Dean Garstecki, emphasizing that manufacturers "have an obligation to limit the output of the devices to a level that does not cause hearing loss."

See more CNET content tagged:
Edward Markey, researcher, gadget, PMP, MP3 player

23 comments

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Do you even read your own stories???
The iPod lawsuit is not over damages caused by hearing loss -- it's over POTENTIAL hearing loss that COULD happen (meaning, of course, a new low in class-action law: suing over what COULD happen).
Posted by M C (598 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The same old story
This is the same old walkman debate reharshed and digitized for
the new millineum,..
Posted by corelogik (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Common Sense
Does anybody have it anymore?
Posted by ZP (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It has gone the way of the DoDo
But I hope it is more like the coelacanth.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
But if people
actually use it then they wouldn't have a reason to sue everybody. Also we wouldn't have the fantastic Darwin Awards. Long live the idiots out there!
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
Personal Responsibility
As TimBob says:

Ive owned my iPod mini for about 2 years now and I have used it many times while mowing my lawn. I usually turn the volume up all the way just to be able to hear the music over my mower. If I want to rock out to some Dead or Widespread Panic when I am mowing my lawn I will. If my hearing is shot in 20 years it is no ones fault but my own, plain and simple.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.inaniloquent.com/PermaLink.aspx?guid=4b7c473d-e554-42a4-852c-800634ecd8a9" target="_newWindow">http://www.inaniloquent.com/PermaLink.aspx?guid=4b7c473d-e554-42a4-852c-800634ecd8a9</a>
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Deaf man walking, dude.
My aunt worked in a cabinet finishing factory, working an incredibly loud planer. Instead of wearing the OSHA-mandated hearing protection, she used her headphones that were connected to a portable radio and turned it up loud enough to drown out the planing machine noise. She rec'd double hearing aids at the ripe ol' age of 56.

I wear ear plugs for many activities (lawn mowing, hammering, vacuuming, most concerts) in order to KEEP my hearing, so that I can keep listening to music, at a reasonable level, as long as I live.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Link Flag
Corporate Responsibility
That article you linked to said "If something hurts, stop doing it". But the whole point with gradual hearing loss is that at some volume levels that are high enough to cause permanent hearing loss, it doesn't hurt.

The article also says "in every health and biology class from grade school through high schho [sic], they teach that loud sounds can cause hearing damage". What--so now, a manufacturer's obligation to produce a safe product is obviated by how well its customers did in school?
Posted by TimeBomb (70 comments )
Link Flag
True, Timbob...
You're right, you're only sacrificing your own hearing. But whuffo? If you need to hear over loud things like lawnmowers, spend a couple bucks on better earphones.

I recently bought earbud phones that are designed to block outside noise significantly (this site reviews a number of them). The lower ambient noise level allows me to bring the volume down, and still enjoy the music as much (if not more). I now use them when I ride my Yamaha, and it makes a huge difference in listening quality.

Sure, they were pricey, but they cost a lot less than a good hearing aid. It's worth it.
Posted by Steve Jordan (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do they really need a study for this?
Do they really need a study for this?
Posted by dewalt25 (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Relax, it's Government funded;-)
Of course!
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
Fork warning!
Don't forget to warn iPod users that forks stuck into ears - or eyes, for that matter - can also be hazardous! An iPod is not a flotation device. It may be harmful or fatal if swallowed. Um, I'm sure there are other warnings that I can't think of that urgently need to be passed on or else users will unwittingly put themselves in great danger.
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
side effects
The iPod is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. The iPod does not cure ED, increase a man's sexual desire, protect a man or his partner from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, or serve as a male form of birth control. The most common side effects with iPod are headache, indigestion, back pain, muscle aches, flushing, and stuffy or runny nose. These side effects usually go away after a few hours. Patients who get back pain and muscle aches usually get it 12 to 24 hours after using iPod. Back pain and muscle aches usually go away by themselves within 48 hours. Call your doctor if you get a side effect that bothers you or one that will not go away. iPod may uncommonly cause vision changes, such as seeing a blue tinge to objects or having difficulty telling the difference between the colors blue and green. IPOD IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Tell your doctor about your medical conditions and all medications, and ask if you're healthy enough.
Posted by nextcube (27 comments )
Link Flag
In other news...
a new study reports that touching stoves may cause burns.
Also, jumping from buildings may cause broken bones.

I for one think the appliance manufacturers should be held
responsible, and that builders should be forced to build no higher
than one story.
Posted by wpholmes (38 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Even one story is too high....
..... maybe no higher than three feet?
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
hold on a sec
Wait a minute here. Do you mean to tell me that cramming
headphones into your ear and putting the volume up full blast
causes hearing damage???!!!! My God!!! Someone should sue
about this....oh wait, they did.

What a joke. Those found guilty of frivolous lawsuits should get
a nice long caning.
Posted by dmaggio12 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I 2nd
I believe that there is even a warning in the iPod users manual
that says listening too it at too loud a volume can cause hearing
damage. But this requires that the user be able to read.

I can see it now, Apple and other media player makers, will be
required to make big warning labels on the packaging warning
of possible hearing loss, just like the Surgeon General warnings
on cigarettes. And last I checked, there are still new smokers
every day, and new lawsuits against tobacco companies.

Oh, and the argument for limiting the iPod playback to 100 dB; I
don't quite understand how that is valid or would work. I know
from my own experience that the volume of my iPod has to be
set higher with my "earmuff-style" headphones than with the ear
buds provided by Apple. And if I couldn't get my iPod to play
with my other head phones at a sufficient volume to hear over
machines at the gym, I'd be a pretty unsatisfied customer.

Give those morons heck! Then counter sue them for waisting our
time and lowering our collective IQs!
Posted by URTido (14 comments )
Link Flag
Huh?
What?
Posted by jmmejzz (107 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bum rap, more research needed
We don't have the research to confirm that MP3 players cause
hearing loss.

What is known is that sounds of 100 decibels or higher,
particularly if sustained, cause damage to hearing. BUT, those
sounds can come from any loud source. There isn't a
justification for singling out MP3 players, or, as some have done,
iPods in particular, over the issue.

In a New York Times article published today, the nation's top
authority on hearing loss confirms what I've said. More and
better research is required to discover whether MP3 players
effect hearing.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is an actionable LIE, C/Net
"Apple, for its part, already faces a class action lawsuit backed
by a group of iPod users seeking compensation for hearing
damage they claim was caused by the devices."

The lawsuit does not claim actual hearing loss, but that there is
POTENTIAL for iPod users to damage their hearing.

Oddly, the lawsuit does not target other makers of audio
devices, just Apple. Furthermore, the lawyer who filed the
lawsuit is on retainer with. . .Microsoft.

This is the most irresponsible article I have ever read at C/Net.
At a real newspaper, the reporter would be subject to a dressing
down if not put on probation. This kind of knowing falsehood
can get the publisher sued.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is why i hate people
So many dumb people. That money that they are spening on research to see if loud noises directly in your ear can cause hearing lost, could go elsewhere. How about they ask a five year old what loud sounds do to you ears? Research done. They buy the five year old some candy and then spend the rest of that big government check on paving roads, school books or homeless shelters.

Warning! The government spending money on useless research could lead to money not being spent on things that actual benifit society.
Posted by Glorybox3737 (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does iPod Supply Eabuds With Purchase?
If they do, they should stop. That way they may not be held responsible for hearing loss. People would have to go after the headphone companies. Also, if you really do your research, you will find that a majority of these problems can be alleviated by the proper type of hearing device. I.e. ear canal headphones. Not earbuds, which, due to their lack of physical ear canal insertion cause the person listening to music when there's background noise to just TURN UP THE VOLUME. With ear canal headphones, it's pretty much like sticking your fingers in your ears. This means that you can't really hear any ambient/outside noise, thus allowing you to still get all the audio clarity but at a much lower volume. Sure, you'll end up spending more money up front, but isn't that worth having your hearing in the long run??
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does iPod Supply Earbuds With Purchase?
If they do, they should stop. That way they may not be held responsible for hearing loss. People would have to go after the headphone companies. Also, if you really do your research, you will find that a majority of these problems can be alleviated by the proper type of hearing device. I.e. ear canal headphones. Not earbuds, which, due to their lack of physical ear canal insertion cause the person listening to music when there's background noise to just TURN UP THE VOLUME. With ear canal headphones, it's pretty much like sticking your fingers in your ears. This means that you can't really hear any ambient/outside noise, thus allowing you to still get all the audio clarity but at a much lower volume. Sure, you'll end up spending more money up front, but isn't that worth having your hearing in the long run??
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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