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Call for noise warnings on i-Pods in UK

March 1, 2011 | General, i-pod hearing damage

An organisation for the deaf wants Apple and other manufacturers of MP3 players to print bigger warnings about the risks of hearing loss.

The British organization RNID (Royal National Institute of the Deaf) is requesting that Apple and other manufacturers of MP3 players print more prominent warnings about the risks of hearing loss.

The charity group has written to all leading manufacturers of MP3 players asking them to explain potential dangers of using their products at high volumes.

When I speak on the radio I am frequently asked about the danger of i-Pods to hearing and how this relates to Sound Therapy.

There are two important distinctions to make here.

One is that we don’t use i-Pod for Sound Therapy because i-Pod and its proprietary software, i-Tunes, play only Mp3 files, which are compressed, low quality sound. This sound has no therapeutic effect on the ear, and possibly has a detrimental effect as it is not stimulating the full range of frequencies.

In fact it is now possible to play back very high quality, high frequency sound on a tiny, light weight digital player, and this is what our new Sound Therapy players are specially manufactured to do.

The other distinction is that i-Pod or Mp3 users typically listen at very high volume, as you know when on a train you can hear the music of the passenger next to you! In contrast, Sound Therapy listeners listen at low volume, so low that they can carry on a conversation while listening. This poses no danger at all to the hearing.

The RNID, which represents nine million people who are deaf or hard of hearing, states that it is not opposed to MP3 players but wants to encourage people to protect themselves against the cumulative effects of loud music, “so they can enjoy the music they love for the rest of their lives.”

According to a recent survey, 79 percent of people between the ages of 16 and 30 have never seen warnings on the outside of MP3 players’ packaging.

It is sad that, one these warnings are so desperately needed to stop young people from damaging their hearing every day with Mp3 players, and sad that most of them are not even heeding the warnings.


“We know that young people are at risk from losing their hearing prematurely by listening to loud music for too long on MP3 players. MP3 player manufacturers have a responsibility to make their customers aware of the risks and the need to listen at sensible levels and we urge them to incorporate prominent warnings into the packaging of their products,” Dr John Low, chief executive of RNID, said in a prepared statement.

“New technology and ever-increasing storage capacity enables people to listen non-stop for hours” and at louder volumes than ever before. If you are regularly plugged in, it is only too easy to clock up noise doses that could damage your hearing forever.”

Angela King, senior audiologist at RNID, said that ringing and buzzing in the ears after prolonged exposure to loud sounds should serve as a warning of potential hearing loss. She said reducing volume slightly could help minimise ear damage.

A large number of the enquiries we receive at Sound Therapy International are from people whose ears have been damaged by industrial noise or farm noise. Others are from working in the music industry. Unfortunately, we anticipate an increased number in the future from i-Pod listeners.

Once the ear has been damaged, causing hearing loss, tinnitus and possibly dizziness or blocked ear, it is likely that these problems will worsen over the years and can seriously affect a person’s relationships, career and state of mind.

The only medical advice most people are given, once ear problems set in, is to avoid noise and learn to live with it. Fortunately we can offer some hope with Sound Therapy and at least partly reverse some of these problems, but it is far better not to do the damage in the first place.


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