July 19, 2006

Kids Risk Early Deafness with MP3 Players

LONDON (Reuters) - Teenagers and young adults who listen to MP3 players too loudly and too often risk going deaf 30 years earlier than their parents' generation, a charity warned on Thursday.

Deafness Research UK said a national survey in Britain showed that 14 percent of 16-34 year-olds use their personal music players for 28 hours a week.

More than a third of the 1,000 people questioned in the poll said they had ringing in the ear, a sign of damage to hearing, after listening to loud music.

"We are warning young people that they are putting themselves at risk of going deaf 30 years earlier than their parents' generation," said Vivienne Michael, chief executive of Deafness Research UK.

Young people are exposed to loud noise from MP3 players, sophisticated sound systems in homes, clubs and cars but many are unaware of the damaging effect it can have on hearing.

Nearly 40 percent of the people questioned in the poll said they did not know that listening to loud music on a personal music player or in clubs or cars could damage their hearing.

Twenty-eight percent said they went to noisy bars, pubs or nightclubs once a week.

"Hearing loss can make life unbearable. It cuts people off from their family and friends and makes everyday communication extremely difficult," Michael said in a statement.

The charity advises people to follow the 60-60 rule. Do not listen to your MP3 player at more than 60 percent of maximum volume and do not listen to it for more than 60 minutes at a time.

It also added that if the music from a headset is loud enough for the people around to hear, then it is loud enough to cause hearing damage.

Noise levels exceeding 105 decibels can damage hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes, according to Britain's Health and Safety Executive.

Normal conversation is about 60 decibels. Heavy traffic is about 85 decibels and loud personal music players are 112 decibels.