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Hearing loss, damage, and impairment for kids,
and music listeners



Music is Language, Language is Music: Book

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RootsBiophonyIntelligence • Ears

Can I damage my hearing by listening to loud music?


People should listen to music for no more than one hour a day to protect their hearing, the World Health Organization suggests.

Over exposure can trigger tinnitus, and remember that a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can make all the difference."

It says 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of permanently damaging their hearing by listening to "too much, too loudly". WHO figures show 43 million people aged 12-35 have hearing loss and the prevalence is increasing. In that age group, the WHO said, half of people in rich and middle-income countries were exposed to unsafe sound levels from personal audio devices. Meanwhile 40% were exposed to damaging levels of sound from clubs and bars.

The WHO's safe listening times are:
85 dB - the level of noise inside a car - eight hours
90 dB - lawn mower - two hours 30 minutes
95 dB - an average motorcycle - 47 minutes
100 dB - car horn or underground train - 15 minutes
105 dB - mp3 player at maximum volume - four minutes
115 dB - loud rock concert - 28 seconds
120 dB - vuvuzela or sirens - nine seconds

2010 Hearing loss is now affecting nearly 20 percent of U.S. adolescents age 12-19, a rise of 5 percent over the last 15 years.

Increase may be caused by loud volume. Parents and children should pre-set their electronic music devices to somewhere between one-half and two-thirds maximum volume because any sound over 85 decibels (dBs) exceeds what hearing experts consider to be a safe level, and some MP3 players are programmed to reach levels as high as 120 dBs. [source]



Kids blow out their ear drums trying to cheat in the classroom.

With nearly four students vying for every available spot in China's universities, cheating on entrance exams is rampant. As technology has entered the equation for cheaters, so has it become a tool for proctors trying to defeat the cheaters. Video cameras and cell-phone blocking have become common in Chinese testing centers. Students intent on cheating, then, resort to ever-smaller devices, with some students finding out how small is too small. According to the "China Daily," one student used an earpiece for cheating that was so tiny it entered his ear canal and ruptured his eardrum. Another student had to have an earpiece removed surgically, according to the paper, and yet another was injured when a remote listening device exploded. The device was strapped to the student's body and connected to headphones; the explosion left the student with an open wound in his abdomen.

High decibel amplified sounds and its effect on hearing loss....

What's better than loud music? Louder music. And it's not just the headbangers who think so. An analysis of pop recordings proves that for the past decade, record labels have quietly been producing the most earsplitting CDs possible.
Here's a funny but true story from a social worker: she visited a client and he had condoms on his ears.  She asked him why and he said he didn't want to get AIDS.  She said, "You don't get AIDS that way."  He said, "I don't want to get hearing AIDS."

iPod Studies

Experts urge new iPod ear studies US health experts have urged further research into possible links between personal music players and potentially irreversible hearing loss. The National Institutes of Health said new studies were needed into the effects of in-ear headphones used in music players like the Apple iPod. The NIH was responding to calls by a US congressman into the possible long-term effects of loud music on hearing.

Ipod Apple now offers free software that lets you limit the volume on your iPod Update can be downloaded

Parents can control the volume on the ipod and lock it in.

Protect your ears: limit iPod Use Charnicia E. Huggins 12/29/05
The ever-popular earbuds used with many iPods and other MP3 players may be more stylish than the bigger and bulkier earmuff-type headphones, but they may also be more damaging to one's hearing, according to a Northwestern professor. "No one really knows for sure" the levels at which iPod users listen to music, but "what we do know is that young people like their music loud and seldom worry about any decline in hearing ability," Dean Garstecki, chairman of Northwestern's communication sciences and disorders department, told Reuters Health. The earbuds commonly used by iPod listeners are placed directly into the ear and can boost the audio signal by as many as nine decibels -- comparable to the difference in sound intensity between an alarm clock and a lawn mower, Garstecki said. Yet, the earbuds do not always fit snugly in the ear, but often allow background noise to seep in, which causes listeners to crank up the volume. In turning up the volume to drown out background noise, however, people "don't realize they may be causing some damage" to their hearing, Garstecki said. This danger is not confined to MP3 users, such as iPod owners. Earbuds are also used with compact disc players and Walkmans. Audiologists have cautioned about the potential risk of hearing loss associated with such devices since the 1980s. The longer battery life and the greater music storage capacity of MP3 players, in comparison to Walkmans and compact discs, however, encourage longer periods of uninterrupted music listening. "It's the combination of high intensity and long duration that creates the unique problem with the iPod," Garstecki said. Various researchers have reported an increased risk of hearing loss associated with headphone use in the general population. Despite this, an MTV survey conducted earlier this year revealed that most teens and young adults do not think hearing loss from loud music is a big problem, even though over half of those surveyed said they experienced ringing in their ears after concerts. When told that the loud music may lead to lifelong hearing loss, however, most of the survey participants said they would consider protective measures in the future. Eliminating iPod earbuds in favor of larger earmuff-style headphones as one of those protective measures may be an unattractive option for many style-conscious music lovers. Instead, Garstecki recommends adherence to the 60 percent/30 minute rule. Listeners should set their iPods and other MP3 players to sound levels that are no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume -- i.e. just over halfway between "off" and "maximum" volume -- and use their earbuds for no more than 30 minutes a day. Those who use muff-style headphones at 60 percent volume can increase the duration to an hour a day, and those who listen at volumes significantly lower than 60 percent of the maximum can use their music players for many more hours. Also, newer, more snug-fitting earbuds are "likely to be safer" if they prevent users from turning up the volume to eliminate background noise, Garstecki said. "It's when you start cranking it up that you have to limit the dosage," he explained. Noise-canceling headphones are another option for those who desire to listen to music for an extended period of time. These devices, while a bit more costly and more visible than earbuds, partially or fully eliminate background noise so that users do not have to crank up the volume of their music for that purpose. 


Use the suggested voice for each line;
This is my speaking voice, I use it every day.
This is my whisper voice, it's quiet, don't you say?
This is my shouting voice, I use it to say "Hey!" (needs reminder to use inside voice, not playground)
This is my singing voice, I like it, it's okay.
(sing last one on S-M)


192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They're not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse. The ultrasonics are a liability during playback. there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space. There are a few real problems with the audio quality and 'experience' of digitally distributed music today. 24/192 solves none of them. While everyone fixates on 24/192 as a magic bullet, we're not going to see any actual improvement. Xiph.Org presents the technical foundations of modern digital media



You can test what frequencies you can and can't hear with our basic tests. Please note some speakers and sound cards cannot reproduce some extreme frequencies. We recommend using this site with quality headphones.

Note: Note that is not a diagnostic test nor should it replace regular audiometric testing provided by qualified audiologists or medical professionals.

If you are concerned about your hearing seek the advice of a professional..


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A high-pitched tone that only children can hear. Where cellphone use is forbidden it is perfect for signaling the arrival of a text message without being detected by old people (like teachers).

The cellphone ring tone was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around. Teenager Repellant

Most human communication is in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz most adults' ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.
(a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second)




Rapper Ben Johnson musician driving home the point that people need to be really careful about earbud volume levels and music listening time. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, nearly 13% of Americans ages 6-19 (more than 5 million) have suffered noise-induced hearing loss. Earbuds can cause that if theyre used for long periods (at 7+ volume on a scale of 10). The rule of thumb these experts give is to limit earphone listening to an hour a day, at a setting no greater than six on that scale of 10.

House Ear Institute's Hearing Conservation Program For Music Industry Professionals 213-483-4431
Noise Induced Hearing Loss Teens Targeted in New Hearing Conservation Campaign

Kathy Peck, co-founder of HEAR Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers, many musicians, disc jockeys and concert goers have permanent hearing damage. The dangers of repeated exposure to loud music, estimates that 60 percent of rock stars inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are hearing-impaired.

Mutations in alpha tectorin result in poor frequency response of the ear, making it hard to understand speech

National Hearing Conservation Association brochure information about musicians and hearing protection.

Hearing Assessment 

Source: American Speech-Language Hearing Association (1988 March). Guidelines for Determining Speech Thresh Level for Speech. This is what you study to get an advanced degree in audiology: Half Lists of Spondiaic Words

List A

airplane        ice cream
baseball        mousetrap
blackboard      northwest
cowboy          oatmeal
drawbridge      pancake
duck pond       playground
eardrum         railroad
horseshoe       sunset
hotdog          whitewash

List B

armchair        headlight
backbone        inkwell
birthday        mushroom
cookbook        nutmeg
doormat         outside
earthquake      padlock
eyebrow         stairway
greyhound       toothbrush
hardware        woodwork

The History of How Music Got So Loud

At a Berlin rehearsal in 1954, Wilhelm Furtwängler, the leading conductor in Europe, shook his baton to begin a Beethoven symphony. The orchestra entered - and the maestro waved his hands to stop them. "That will be all, gentlemen," he said, sending them home for the day. Were the acoustics unacceptable? Did the orchestra play so badly that it was hopeless to continue? No; the problem was that Furtwängler couldn't hear them. In spite of the microphones that had been set up by the podium and the headphones that fed the signal into the conductor's ears, he could hear no more than the elderly Beethoven had been able to.
When I discussed the matter with Dr. Richard Tyler of the University of Iowa, he doubted a biographer's claim that a bout of medication damaged Furtwängler's right ear. Given the medical details, said Dr. Tyler, the most obvious explanation is that the conductor's ears were done in by a lifetime of facing brass sections in Wagner and Bruckner. Dr. Tyler has seen other conductors with the same syndrome, although he wouldn't reveal names.
It's unlikely that Byrd or Bach had a similar problem. Their ensembles were small, and the compactness was typical. One hears of exceptionally large bands - Corelli's, for example - but these were still small compared to those of Wagner and Mahler.
Even by the late 18th century, ensemble size was much smaller than many music-lovers imagine. Mozart operas were performed in houses that seated 500 listeners. The orchestras were chamber-sized, and the singing technique would be derided as "small-voiced" by modern opera devotees. The singers didn't lower their larynxes - that trick of voice placement that creates today's characteristic "operatic" sound and increases volume. The lowered larynx came into style only by the 1840s. And continuous vibrato, which helps project the voice over loud orchestras, became fully established even later. Voices had to become louder because orchestras had. Not only had ensembles become larger by 1840, but instruments had been modified to increase their decibel output. Violinists, for example, had the necks on their instruments bent back and the bridges raised, to accommodate higher string tension.
Why the emphasis on volume?
The reasons were at least partly economic. The opera houses and concert halls had to expand in order to provide more seats for paying customers. Aristocrats no longer funded the arts as their personal preserve, so revenues came more and more from the paying middle class.
The upside was that a much larger population now had access to art music. But Furtwängler's story illustrates a downside. To fill the larger halls with sufficient sound, the voices, instruments and ensembles had to crank up to potentially deafening levels. Countless violists, who sit right in front of the brass, have been deafened as a result. And some veteran opera singers, thanks to years of being screeched at by their fellow divas at close range, have lost a good deal of hearing.
Still, for the most part, the audiences had little to worry about. Classical music was rarely loud enough to hurt their ears; performers bore the risk. Today, however, popular music has endangered the audience too. In the mid-20th century, electrical amplifiers transformed popular music, making a good deal of it hazardous to auditory health.
Many consumers want maximum decibels, of course. We've all heard cars with those thumping subwoofers that can make a passerby's dentures rattle; some of these cars carry a bumper sticker that reads, "If you think this is too loud, you're too old." For some young consumers, ear-splitting music is not just a taste, it's a badge of belonging.
Why so many people want to hear punishingly loud music is an unanswered question. Is it the sheer intensity of the experience? Is it the coolness? One speculation holds that loud music at dances saves kids from having to make clever conversation - they need merely show up, look good, and twitch appropriately. Answer See Research
An obvious reason for teenage indifference is that the consequences often don't show up for years. Hearing is usually lost in tiny increments. You don't notice any problem until you're already half deaf, at which point it's too late. (Tinnitus, however, can have sudden onset at any age.)
There is essentially no public policy trying to counter the marketplace trend toward the super-loud. Lawsuits like Jeffery's may help to make promoters more cautious, and there are a few public-interest groups trying to raise awareness about the problem. But they seem like fingers in the dike. Loud music is everywhere, and exposure isn't always a matter of consumer choice.

What Musicians Can Do
Fred Smith (not his real name) is an early-music lover and amateur performer who suffers from tinnitus. Five years ago, at a bar mitzvah he attended, the reception featured a rock DJ with a wall of mega-amplifiers. Fred's ears have been ringing ever since. Today, Fred never leaves home without a box of his favorite brand of earplugs, "Mack's," in his pocket. When he's in a big city, he always puts the plugs in before he walks outside. "You never know when a siren will start up or a bus brake will screech," he says.
The problem is that loud, high-pitched noises make his ears ring even louder for a day or two, and the increased ringing could potentially become permanent. He doesn't want to chance it. Fred now listens to choral and orchestral music only at home on his stereo, where he can control the volume. Fred's situation is extreme, but doctors assure him that the precautions he takes are sensible.
One can try, of course, to keep oneself from getting into Fred's situation in the first place. Some early-music lovers leave when the rock 'n' roll starts. And in the inevitable encounters with noise - from lawnmowers to movie theaters - some people rely on earplugs, which can reduce the volume by about 20 decibels, although the case of Peter Jeffery shows their limitations.
Another problem with plugs-that they distort the sound of music by reducing the higher frequencies more than the lower ones-can be overcome with special "musician's earplugs." These re-usable plugs require fitting by an audiologist and cost about $100. But they reduce the decibel level evenly throughout the entire frequency range. Also, they can be varied to reduce the decibel level to greater or lesser degrees.
But while such plugs are catching on among rock musicians (some of whom know not to perform without their plugs), they will never be necessary among viol consorts or clavichordists. Not all old instruments are safe to the ears, of course: bagpipes are as loud as freight trains, and a large double French harpsichord played in a small, live room has enough intensity in the upper partials to cause tinnitus if you practice day in and day out. Organs can do the same. Still, in general, early music players and listeners have little to fear from their focus on music and instruments from the quieter past.
The early music movement is sometimes criticized for its preoccupation with the past, but with respect to noise levels, the past has something to teach us. The economics of performance have changed and so has much else, and many of us wouldn't want to return to the lifestyles of medieval monks. But the music continues to speak to us - and it does so while respecting the natural limits of the human physiology.

Queen's University Psychology 385 Psychology of Music

Losing Your Ears to Music

Every church and orchestra should have: by C. Clark Bell: Associate Professor Music Education
Florida Atlantic University Music Department Outstanding music teacher of over 40 years who has taught elementary school, junior and senior high as well as 37 years at Florida State and Florida Atlantic Universities thinks:

  • (1) sound engineers who can pass a normal audio hearing test, that is, can hear without mechanical assistance (hearing aids) all of the frequencies of a normal range.
  • (2) a decibel meter that is fully operational and in the sight of the > sound engineer or
  • (3) pass out ear plugs at the door for those who have normal hearing and want to retain it into their "retirement years".

Why? because the greatest loss in my estimation is not the ability to hear music. That is a given, but the loss of "intimacy" is a much greater loss. When someone whispers, "I love you", the last thing they want you to say is, "What did you say?" The hearing loss epidemic and musicians by Bernard D. Sherman; reprinted from Early Music America (Spring 2000)

Classical music often reaches dangerous sound levels Musicians aren't using earplugs. Wagner's Ring Cycle, "Gotterdammerung" movement the orchestra sound hits 110 decibels. Trumpeters playing Mahler's Ninth Symphony produce passages of 112 decibels. The recommended daily sound maximum is 85 decibels for eight hours a day. Orchestra members face hearing loss due to the nature of the music exposure. They should have a pure-tone threshold screening test. T he classical musician typically plays five to 10 hours per day, including performance, practice, and teaching.
Peter Jeffery had planned to wait in a "parent's room" while his 12-year-old attended a concert by the rock group Smashing Pumpkins. But a warm-up act had commandeered the parent's room. So Jeffery, a leading scholar of Gregorian chant, inserted a pair of earplugs, walked into the concert hall with his son, and stayed to the end.
Big mistake. After the concert, Jeffery's left ear was in pain, and he felt dizzy; both symptoms lasted until morning. The next day, a loud ringing persisted in his left ear. It turned out to be tinnitus caused by the decibel overload. The ringing would accompany Jeffery, his doctor said, for the rest of his life. Jeffery has since sued the concert hall, Smashing Pumpkins and their warmup acts, promoters, and record labels.
The defendants and the plaintiff would probably disagree over whether Gregorian chant is better for your soul than, say, Smashing Pumpkins concerts. But no one can reasonably disagree about which is better for your ears. Monks have never had to wear earplugs to vespers.
Early music-from chant through Bach-is safer for the ears not only than rock, but also than standard orchestral and opera repertory, which is often loud enough to damage the performer's hearing. But if early-music performers and listeners have an auditory advantage, they are still not immune - as Peter Jeffery found out - to the new epidemic of ear damage.
Smashing Eardrums
According to press reports about the Jeffery case, the Smashing Pumpkins concert reached loudness levels of 125 decibels, enough to cause some permanent hearing loss in a fairly short time. On their own, many fans also crank up their Walkmans and car stereos to ear-splitting levels. With that kind of exposure, plenty of Smashing Pumpkins fans will need hearing aids by the time they reach Jeffery's age. Many won't have to wait: at least 15% of American teenagers have permanently lost some hearing. That's about the same percentage you would find among people currently between 45 and 65.
The latter cohort, Jeffery's own generation, started the problem: we don't call them "boomers" for nothing. This generation made amplifiers as central to adolescence as acne. One study found a 150 percent increase in hearing problems among people in their 50s in 1994 compared to people of that age in 1964. Amplified music was a large part of the reason.
Of course, rock music is hardly the only culprit. Such stereotypically "guy" toys as guns, motorcycles, chainsaws, and snowmobiles can punish your ears just as badly; so can leaf blowers; so can some digital movie theater soundtracks. About 30 million Americans-more than one in ten - are exposed every day to dangerously loud levels of noise. And lasting damage can come even from a single blast of noise if it's intense enough. Airbag deployments, for example, often reach 168 decibels.
Not that hearing loss is the most prevalent syndrome caused by all this noise. Jeffery is one of 50 million Americans with tinnitus; 12 million of them have ringing in the ears so loud as to be incapacitating. Despite occasional claims, there's no cure for tinnitus caused by acoustic overload. Current treatments can help patients cope with the condition, but can't reverse it.
The ear-damage epidemic is an example of what medical theorists call "a disease of civilization": a medical problem created by a mismatch between the world our bodies are designed for and the world we have created. Modern technology has created a high-decibel soundscape, but nature designed our ears for detecting predators creeping toward us and prey creeping away from us. It didn't equip us to withstand Smashing Pumpkins concerts, because our evolutionary ancestors hardly ever encountered anything that loud.
Over the last few centuries, with the rise of the industrial society, noise levels have increased dramatically. Music, instead of providing a counterbalance, has for its own reasons gotten louder, to the point of creating a public health hazard.

Protect your hearing when your are exposed to sounds above 85dB

Volume Setting






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Creative ZEN Nano Plus






Sony Walkman MP3/ATRAC3plus






iRiver T10






Dell Latitude D610 Laptop






Dell Axim X5 Handheld






Motorola Motostart H700 Bluetooth*






Bratz: Liptunes MP3 Player






Disney Mix Stick






Read ASHA's DeskReference Guidelines
Audiological Assessment of Children Birth to 5 Years of Age: 2004 PDF 

ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association), is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 123,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Specifically, ASHA's testing showed the following (numbers reflect decibel-dBA-readings):
In products that plug into the ear, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association testing finds decibel levels high enough to destroy the hair cells, causing permanent hearing loss (February 28, 2006).


In 2005 the Discovery Channel television show MythBusters recruted rock singer and vocal coach Jamie Vendera to break glass with his voice. For the first time, proof that an unassisted voice can indeed shatter glass was captured on video.
Vendera's glass-breaking wail registered at 105 decibels. Only the finest leaded crystal is dainty and resonant enough to break at volumes that some people can produce without amplification — upward of 100 decibels. Typical speech is around 50 decibels and opera singers train for years to build up the strength to produce sustained notes at volumes above 100 decibels.

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