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March 14, 2006

Gadgets May Cause Hearing Loss - Group

Courtesy of TechWeb News

More than half of high school students and over a third of adults reported at least one symptom of hearing loss, possibly due to the increased use of portable music players, earbud headphones, and other consumer technologies, a hearing association announced Tuesday.

In the survey done for the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association (ASHA), 51 percent of high school-aged children and 37 percent of adults admit to turning up the volume on radio or TV, saying "huh?" or "what?" during normal conversation, or experiencing a ringing in the ears.

Although the survey didn't correlate causes of the hearing loss symptoms, it did find habits potentially dangerous to hearing health. For instance, two-fifths of students and adults set the volume of their iPods to high, fewer than 30 percent use headphones other than the earbud-style models included with portable music players, and large numbers listen for 1-4 hours daily.

"Louder and longer is definitely not the way to use these products," said Brenda Lonbury-Martin, ASHA's head of science and research, in a statement. "Eventually, that becomes a recipe for noise-induced hearing loss, which is permanent."

The issue of potential hearing problems stemming from iPods and other MP3 players, and the use of in-ear headphones, has been simmering for weeks. Last month, a Louisiana man filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple Computer, claiming that the iPod and its earbud headphones can cause hearing damage.

ASHA wasn’t ready to name names, however, and urged more research. "Our poll tells us that we should take a close look at the potential impact of some popular technologies on hearing health, said ASHA's president Alex Johnson in an accompanying statement.

The group recommended that users turn down the volume, limit their listening time, and use earphones that block out the unwanted sound that tempts people into turning up the volume.

ASHA's survey can be downloaded from its Web site in PDF format.

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