Is Generation Y going deaf?

With in-ear headphones cranked to "11," members of the younger generation are doing irreparable harm to their hearing. Maybe they don't even know.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg

Abuse it, and you'll lose it. Steve Guttenberg

When I can hear a teenager's headphones through the din of a NYC subway car, I know he's on his way.

If I'm sitting a good 10 feet away from him and can still hear the screech of his headphones, I know the kid is killing his ears. Sure, I'm sometimes tempted to say something, but I never do. He's not really bothering anybody. And if he wants to be stone deaf by the time he's 30, well, it's his life.

But does he know that day by day he's doing irreparable harm? There's no cure for deafness, just hearing aids.

This blog was inspired by Audiophiliac reader Alegr, who supplied the following quote:

"Generation Y, whose hearing is impaired by in-ear headphone abuse, is finally unable to hear vinyl's noises, distortion, and limited frequency response. Which are worse than a 128 kbps MP3."

You think? People have different sensitivities to different types of distortion. To my ears vinyl distortions are less annoying than MP3 haze. In any case I'd hope any Gen Y-er listening to vinyl has some consciousness of sound quality and wouldn't abuse their ears.

If you regularly experience "ringing" in the ears, that's not a good sign. Take heed or suffer the consequences. If you want to see (or hear) where you stand right now, check out my blog covering a do-it-yourself hearing test CD.