In part 1 of I can’t hear you! Headphones & Earbuds I talked about the pleasures and advantages of listening to music with an iPhone or MP3 player in public areas.
What about the bad things?
I’ve noticed some people, especially young people, listening to iPods with the sound so loud that I can clearly hear what they are listening too. This is really loud. This is so loud that hearing damage is happening. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is becoming a major concern. Experts agree that most personal MP3 players like iPods produce well over 100 dB of output when played a high volume. 85 dB is the level at which hearing damage begins. The maximum time that we can endure 100 db without doing permanent damage is 15 minutes. If you can’t hear someone speaking to you from a foot away when listening to an MP3 player your volume is too loud.
In the US, a paper published by Niskar et al* in 1998 reports that 15% of American teenagers have NIHL. This cannot be repaired or reversed. Are we creating a generation of hearing impaired people? The cost of serious hearing loss is difficulty in communicating and feeling isolated which often leads to serious depression. What is it going to cost us as a society? What will the impact be on quality of life and business productivity?
This is a term coined by Canadian composer Murray Schafer. It refers to the increasing number of sounds in our environment that no longer emanate from what we would call an expected location in space – like a voice being heard on a loud speaker in the ceiling rather than from the person speaking across the room. This is not recognised as an actual disease, but Schafer coined the term to capture the quality of nervousness that this kind of disassociation of sound from source can cause – perhaps a kind of confusion or bewilderment about where a sound is coming from. Wearing headphones produces perhaps the most severe form of Schizophonia as the sound you are hearing is not at all related to anything you are seeing.
The thing I’ve noticed for myself about Schizophonia is that wearing headphones effectively isolates me and disconnects me from people in my environment. As a result I’ve begun reducing the amount of time I listen to music with headphones when in public.
Part 3 is about some recommendations and solutions for protecting your hearing and sanity while listening to your MP3 player. Read Part 3 now.