One and four teens is in danger of having early hearing loss as a result of perpetually listening to mp3 players too loudly.

This is according to Professor Chava Muchnik of the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions, at Tel Aviv University. Results published in the International Journal of Audiology suggests that teens are the largest group to listen to their iPods or mp3 players at harmful decibel levels.

“In 10 or 20 years it will be too late to realize that an entire generation of young people is suffering from hearing problems much earlier than expected from natural aging,” Professor Muchnik said in a statement.

Muchnik also says that in contrast to past generations, teenagers today can potentially loose their hearing in their 30′s or 40′s, which would be unprecedented.

This music and hearing study was conducted to get a true sense of how many teens could actually be affected by loud mp3 player use, and to determine exactly what their listening habits were.

The study was conducted in two stages. First, 289 teenagers were selected between the ages of 13 and 17 years of age, to gauge what type of mp3 device they own and listen to, and how long they usually play it. 74 of the teens were then selected and placed in both quiet and loud surroundings, and researchers observed how loud they listened to their music. The results would determine the true level of risk and the likelihood that they would suffer hearing loss.

It was learned that eighty percent of the teens used their digital music players regularly, 21 percent used them one to four hours every day, and eight percent admitted to using their mp3 players at least four hours daily. This consequently puts a large group of the younger listening public in the most jeopardy for altered or completely damaged hearing.

Most enjoy the benefit of blocking out surrounding noise with their favorite music, but according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) if you are unable to hear sounds from things around you, you are listening to your music at harmful decibel levels. The ASHA also provides helpful tips on how you can tell if you are listening to your music to loudly.

If you have to raise your voice to hear yourself speak, cannot hear someone who is three feet away from you, or speech around or near you is muffled, you are listening to your music to loudly, according to the ASHA.

Professor Muchnik believes that more information and a stricter criteria should be set for the mp3 manufactures, and suggests that European standards for decibel levels, not exceeding 100 should be applied throughout the industry. Mp3 devices made in other markets can go as high as 189 decibels.

Music or noise that is too loud can rupture the ears delicate hearing system, and potentially dislodge the tiny bones in the center of the ear.

Both parents and schools can do more in teaching kids about hearing damage, Muchnik believes, and she says that researchers will continue to examine the listening habits of young people, including pre-teens, and determine safer ways for mp3 players to be both manufactured and used by the public.

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