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Australian study on hearing implicates iPods and other portable players

Australian study on hearing implicates iPods and other portable players

Justin Yu Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals
Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.
Justin Yu
2 min read


This happens at least once a day...I'm at my desk, typing up a review or blog post on my computer, when all of a sudden someone sneaks up behind me and unintentionally make me jump 10 feet in the air with a simple tap on the back. How do I allow this to happen? Am I deaf? Well, not right now, but it's quite possible that I might be if I continue to constantly blast music out of my Princess Leia headphones.

A recent report out of Australia titled "Is Australia Listening?" reported 70 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 experience a constant ringing in their ears, which can be a symptom of permanent damage to the ear canal. The report goes on to claim that 76 percent of young adults in Australia listen to music through headphones on portable MP3 players, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a higher number in relation to the United States.

At 24, I represent the first generation to see the rise of portable music players. I remember when the headphones to my first Sony Walkman cassette player might as well have been glued to my ears. Since then, I've been addicted to personal, portable audio and I fear that I, along with the rest of my generation, will soon experience severe hearing loss due to years and years of listening to loud music through headphones. Professor Harvey Dillon of the Hearing Australia program says his general rule of thumb is if "people have to raise their voice or actually shout at you to make themselves understood while you are listening to music in your ears, then that is loud enough to be potentially damaging." As a self-professed audiophile, I take every opportunity to listen to my music. It moves along a boring work day, drowns out crazies on the subway, and helps put me to sleep at night. Some days, I feel like I spend more time with my headphones in than out. I also listen to a lot of different kinds of music, from hip-hop to metal to classical to Disney, but no matter what the genre, I must admit that I crank up the volume to the highest possible level to experience the bliss of surround sound. It sounds like my days of listening to music might be numbered...

But what about these new noise-cancelling and inner ear-canal headphones that are starting to pervade the industry? I wonder if those particular types of monitor earphones pose a greater danger than the over the ear style? Either way, my future doesn't look very bright. Are there any Millennials out there who have already started to experience hearing loss? I'd love to hear other opinions on how these listening trends will affect our health down the line.