Expert says ears at risk from iPods

The rise in the use of digital music sources has seen a jump in ear damage. Picture: Scott Louden

The rise in the use of digital music sources has seen a jump in ear damage. Picture: Scott Louden

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PEOPLE are damaging their hearing by setting the volume too high on their iPods a leading health expert has warned.

TV expert Dr Hilary Jones will today tell a high-profile Edinburgh conference how the city is facing a hearing-loss timebomb caused by a generation of music lovers turning the volume up too loud.

An estimated 82,500 Edinburgh people have a hearing impairment – with 33,000 going undiagnosed – with those among the younger generation rising higher than ever.

The boom has been blamed on the rise in popularity of mobile phones and other electronic devices capable of playing music up to ten times above recommended levels.

The devices have taken over noisy workplaces as the most common cause of hearing loss.

Dr Hilary, who is hosting the event with Hidden Hearing Edinburgh today, said people should treat hearing tests as they would an optician’s or ­dentist’s appointment.

He said: “There are a lot of young people who have been playing their personal stereos very loudly in their earphones and have developed hearing loss at a younger age. They go to rock concerts, stand next to the speakers in discos and damage their hearing.

“Audiologists are already seeing a younger clientele. It’s said that if you can hear music that someone else is playing, that person is definitely ­causing long-term damage to their ears. Years ago people used to work on building sites, in aviation or using guns and people said ‘this is a definite cause of hearing loss and we need to put precautions in place where people wear ear defenders’. We have done that bit, but now people have invented a whole new way of damaging their hearing.

“Music is a pleasure but ironically, the people who love their music so much and have it at such a high volume, won’t be able to enjoy the pleasure of music in years to come.”

The ageing population is another factor in the rise but the GP and TV personality added there were many reasons why people suffered hearing loss, from being born with a degree of deafness, to damaged cranial nerves caused by illnesses. Action for Hearing Loss figures show one in six people live with impaired hearing and 40 per cent are undiagnosed.

Dr Hilary, below left, will speak to raise public awareness, with free hearing tests, wax removal and advice from 9am to 5pm at The Caledonian. Mark Coyle, audiologist and manager for Hidden Hearing, Scotland, said technology advances meant there could be real improvements to people’s lives. “It is clearly a big issue but it’s one we can do something about and really make a different to lives,” he said.

Limits in place

CONCERNS about the volume of music people listen at led to the introduction of volume limiters in all MP3 players.

A 2009 survey showed that two-thirds of people using devices such as iPods had the volume set too high, promoting the introduction of noise- limiting controls to restrict the volume level.

Despite this, and the frequent warnings, many still ignore the option and listen to music at potentially damaging levels.