Video: Is iPod nation going deaf?

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/3/2005 6:31:47 PM ET 2005-08-03T22:31:47

Stacey Tillett of Sherman Oaks, Calif. picked out a new iPod today, not worried now that it may be damaging to her hearing.

“I like to listen to music loud, especially when I work out. I  use it when I commute, and I use it when I don’t want to be bothered by people on the street,” says Tillett.

But like all modern MP3 players, the device Stacey bought is an advance on the old technology that will allow him to listen longer and at higher volume than ever before — without ever having to change a tape or CD.

For Dr. Brian Fligor of Boston’s Children’s Hospital, there's an unquestionable connection between the new devices and hearing loss. “It’s a combination of how loud it is and for how long you listen. The two work together to determine your overall daily noise dose,” says Fligor, who has been studying whether there is a link between the personal listening devices, long-life batteries, and earbuds instead of over-the-ear headphones and hearing loss.

Fligor says it just takes common sense to see the problem in a nutshell: Normal conversation registers about 60 decibels, a barking dog up to 70, while the subway is around 85 decibels — all in the safe zone. But the rock band at 120 decibels and your personal stereo system at up to 130 decibels could cause hearing loss if you listen too long.

In your car, and especially in your ear, Dr. Fligor says to be safe, you have to impose limits because the technology does not. If one imagines a volume scale of 1 to 10, Fligor says to keep it at level 6 for one hour or less per day.

Hard to do, say some users. And what about some songs that only sound right at the top volume?

“When I turn up all the volume, the music feels like it's kind of moving through your blood with you,”  says Tillett.

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