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MP3s damage hearing in just one hour

Holly Enriquez
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Teens who listen to their digital music players for hours at full blast are doing more harm than they realise and recent Belgian research has found just one hour can cause hearing damage.

The Ghent University researchers found that just one hour of blasting music through headphones can temporarily affect hearing due to damage to the hair cells in the outer ear.

In the study, 21 people aged 19 to 28 listened to rock music in six different hour-long sessions, using two sets of headphones and multiple preset volumes.

After each session researchers measured the responses of participants to a short sound and then two sounds of different frequencies to see how clearly participants could hear the tones. Results were then compared with a control group of 14 people.

"Excessive noise exposure can lead to metabolic and/or mechanical effects resulting in alterations of the structural elements of the organ of corti," lead researcher Hannah Kempler and her colleagues wrote in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. The corti is the inner-ear organ in mammals that contains auditory sensory cells or 'hair cells'.

"The primary damage is concentrated on the outer hair cells, which are more vulnerable to acoustic overstimulation than inner hair cells," the researchers wrote.

More research is needed to determine the long-term risk, researchers said.

Are young Australians listening?
But encouraging news has come from a new Australian report, titled Binge Listening: Is exposure to leisure noise causing hearing loss in young Australians? from Hearing Australia.

Researchers studied 1000 18 to 35 year olds and found that nine in 10 Australians found it very important to have good hearing and only a small portion thought hearing loss was something only the elderly experienced.

The finding also suggested that just under half of young Australians say they do take steps to protect their hearing. This increased with age: 54 percent of the 30 to 35 age group said the same.

"Unfortunately, there are still at least 30 percent of young Australians who do not realise that once hearing is damaged, it cannot be restored," Professor Harvey Dillon, research director at the National Acoustic Laboratories, which conducted the research, said.

"When damage occurs, such as at a concert or dance party, people notice that the very obvious, short-term damage recovers within a few days, and think there is no problem. They fail to notice the small, permanent damage, and this just keeps accumulating from occasion to occasion."

Have your say: do you consider hearing loss when you listen to your MP3 player?


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