Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Do iPod earbuds cause problems? - My wife got ink today in the P-G.

My wife got some ink in today's P-G.
Do iPod earbuds cause problems?: "Dr. Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at the Eye and Ear Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the personal responsibility defense breaks down, however, when talking about children.

'People often don't know when they're doing damage to their ears because your ears don't just start bleeding. It's an insidious kind of slow process,' she said.

'We don't limit the sales of any of these devices by age in this country, so we kind of expect kids to be responsible.'

Dr. Palmer and others still said common sense is the best policy, especially for parents. If they can hear music from a child's earphones more than a yard away, it is too loud. Children should also be warned about turning up their iPods -- and other music devices -- to overcome ambient noise in buses or other commonly loud places.

To be absolutely safe, UPMC will make a mold of a patient's ears and make headphones that cancel out most outside noise, allowing music to be played more quietly. They cost between $70 and $120. The hospital will also check decibel outputs of music devices."

My wife and sweetheart (Feb 14 is almost here), is Catherine V. Palmer, Ph.D., Director of Audiology at UPMC's Eye and Ear Institute -- and -- she has a joint appointement with the Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehab Sciences.

Taking care of your health is a good thing.

Using common sense is a good thing too.

And, going out of our way to take care of the kids, with special hand holding is also a good thing as well.

So, rock on, with fidelity, and within normal limits.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Do iPod earbuds cause problems?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
By Timothy McNulty, Post-Gazette Staff Writer




The iPod's earbuds are raising concern in medical circles.
Click photo for larger image.

Related Coverage:

MP3 players raise hearing loss concerns (01/11/06)

About People: Lohan recovering; Who guitarist says guard your ears (01/05/06)


A federal lawsuit filed against Apple Computer Inc., paired with worries aired by Who guitarist Pete Townshend and others, is once again raising questions about permanent hearing damage from iPods and other portable music devices.

The same hearing loss questions sprouted after the Sony Walkman got big in the 1980s and before that, portable boom boxes. The concerns have started again with the iPod, due to its popularity (Apple sold an estimated 14 million during the holiday shopping season) and because the white headphones packaged with the device are "earbuds," which are inserted directly into the ear.

The answer to the hearing concerns from most doctors is the same one given before: When you're using your ears, also use your head.

"There is a concern that using headphones that go deep into the ear canal may be more likely to cause hearing loss, but we don't have any really good studies right now," said Dr. Douglas Chen, the director of the Hearing and Balance Center at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side.

"If there is a ringing and buzzing in your ears, it means you're playing it too loud. ... If you hear noise after using your headphones or things are a little muffled, then you know you're probably playing it too loud."

A Louisiana man filed a class action suit in U.S. District Court in Northern California Jan. 31, saying Apple allows the iPod to play too loudly, leading to possible hearing loss in users.

iPods, the 18-page suit says, "are inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss."

It asks for Apple to load software onto the media players limiting their sound output, provide better headphones with the units and pay damages, among other remedies.

iPods can play at 115 decibels or more. Apple has limited units sold in France to 100 decibels, the suit says, and could do the same in U.S. models.

Apple places a warning in iPod user manuals that states "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at a high volume" and tells users to reduce volume or stop using the unit altogether if they have hearing problems.

The suit calls the warning "inadequate." Apple has not commented on the suit.

The suit followed worries Who guitarist Pete Townshend aired on his Web site in December. Noting he experienced hearing loss from using studio headphones, he wrote, "my intuition tells me there is terrible trouble ahead" from iPod-related hearing loss.

Experts around Pittsburgh were wary of the suit, saying common sense should prevent most problems. Joe Sciacca, a manager at the Listening Post in Shadyside, likened it to suing McDonald's for selling hot coffee.

"When you buy a cup of coffee you know it's hot. When you buy headphones, there is a volume control to make them loud or soft. If you are exposed in excess it's going to hurt you. It's not that hard."

Dr. Catherine Palmer, director of audiology at the Eye and Ear Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the personal responsibility defense breaks down, however, when talking about children.

"People often don't know when they're doing damage to their ears because your ears don't just start bleeding. It's an insidious kind of slow process," she said.

"We don't limit the sales of any of these devices by age in this country, so we kind of expect kids to be responsible."

Dr. Palmer and others still said common sense is the best policy, especially for parents. If they can hear music from a child's earphones more than a yard away, it is too loud. Children should also be warned about turning up their iPods -- and other music devices -- to overcome ambient noise in buses or other commonly loud places.

To be absolutely safe, UPMC will make a mold of a patient's ears and make headphones that cancel out most outside noise, allowing music to be played more quietly. They cost between $70 and $120. The hospital will also check decibel outputs of music devices.

Music fans may find they don't want to play their music too loudly for reasons in addition to health concerns: At high volumes, the sound degrades and gets distorted.

The signal coming from iPods into headphones or home stereo speakers can "become fuzzy and compressed" when played too loudly, said Sciacca. "At some point after turning the volume up, then you turn it up more but it doesn't seem to get any louder -- it gets more and more distorted."

Repeated use of iPods at very high volumes could certainly lead to permanent hearing loss -- the Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends exposure to no more than two minutes per day for 115 decibels. But as of yet, most doctors said they are not seeing many cases of hearing loss from the devices.

They see a lot more, at least in Pittsburgh, from other recreational activities, such as gun shooting, which can be as loud as 170 decibels. Even wearing protective earplugs only decreases gunshot noise to about 150 dBs.

"We see a lot more hearing lost due to gunfire than excessively loud stereos," said Dr. Chen of AGH.

(Tim McNulty can be reached at tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.)

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