Can iPod permananetly harm my ears? - Study and measures

By soumitra, Gaea News Network
Thursday, July 2, 2009

the-cat-enjoy-the-ipodWarning : Listening to music in an iPod is addictive and can be dangerous for your ears.

But there is no such kind of a textual alarm printed on the box of iPod as we find in the cigarette packages, advertisements of wine and spirits and so on. However we could perhaps see them printed right on any MP3 player packaging as listening to music at high volume levels can really cause permanent damage to your hearing health. What do they really mean by that? Are they serious?  Then what? All your questions are answered, only here.


The science of sound

The sound is a wave that is generated by a vibrating source. They have two basic properties, frequency and amplitude. Human ears can hear frequency range from 20 to 20,000 Hz. This is perceived as the coarse (bass) to fine (treble) sounds. The amplitude represents the volume of the sound wave. It is measured by decibel in logarithmic units to account for large audible range of human ear. Each 10 decibel increase in sound level means the intensity of sound gets ten times and the perceived loudness becomes nearly double.

A quick perception of the decibel levels

A sound level of 50 decibel means it is very quiet and you can hear ticking of the clock in the room and so. The 60 decibel sound is reached when we normally talk with other people. Watching TV at normal volume goes to 70 decibel and listening to music at moderate sound level in a music system goes up to 80 decibel. The rock concerts range from 90 to 110 decibel and a jet plane from 100 feet away reaches 140 decibel.

What levels are normal for our ears

As can now feel, a constant volume level of 70-80 decibel does not create much problem to our hearing but you may feel some irritation if you are subjected to that noise the whole day. Hearing music at under 85 dB for eight hours or under 90 dB for four hours or 95 dB for two hours and so on does not cause any permanent damage to the hearing capabilities but exceeding those limits can be dangerous in the long run.


Volume level that your iPod delivers

As the earphone are close to our ears, they provide large enough volume levels that can be dangerous to the ear. If you are in Europe, your iPod is capped at 100 dB. So, you can not get it louder than that range unless you do some hacking on it to get it to as high as 130 dB as like those in the US. Hearing at full volume in that range for more than a few minutes is really harmful to hearing health.

At what level should you fix it

Answering to this question straightly can be misleading as different headphone/earphones create different sound levels at the same volume level in your iPod. But as a rule of thumb you should be able to hear from people 3 feet away from you when you are listening to music using your headphone. If you can’t hear them, it is time to lower the volume. Hearing at less than 40% of the maximum volume from your iPod is normal for listening to music throughout the day. But if you can’t resist hearing at high volume level keep track of the time how long you are hearing at high volume.

Few common mistakes

In noisy situation like in streets or subways people try to max out the volume to hear the low sounds above the noise. It is better not to listen to music at that time. And if you still need music at that time try to get a noise isolating or better a noise canceling earbud. Those systems cut off the noise so that you can listen to pure music at lowest possible volume.


You ear is not replaceable. So if you want to continue listening to music, please discontinue your habit of listening at high volume levels. Take care.

July 29, 2010: 2:50 am

I think it really depends on how the user is going to use it. Ears are sensitive, too. They must always consider to take care of it.

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