This week’s Casual Friday study was about the hearing loss problem associated with headphone use, and whether readers would adopt a technological solution to the problem. Eighty-one percent of our 133 respondents said that they own a portable music device (though the relatively low response rate suggests that perhaps some people who don’t own such devices chose not to respond to the study) (from here on out, I’m going to refer to these devices as iPods, even though not everyone who has a portable music device has an iPod — remember, it’s casual!). Forty-nine percent of our respondents said they listen to their iPods at least four hours a week. And they have plenty of music on their iPods — take a look at this graph of how many songs respondents have:
The majority of respondents who have iPods have more than 500 songs, and most commonly, users have between 2001 and 4000 songs. That’s a lot of music, and a lot of listening. But as we mentioned last week, legendary Who guitarist Pete Townshend attributes his hearing problems to headphone use. With all that listening, how worried are these people about their hearing?
Of those who have iPods, only 23 percent said that they’d download Apple’s sound restrictor, which would enable them to set a maximum volume for their device. Do our respondents just not care about safety, or do they feel the safety device is not necessary? Well, we also asked how many users wear bike helmets. Of iPod owners, 67 percent wear bike helmets, so clearly many listeners are concerned about safety. So the obvious next question is, is there any association between helmet use and plans to use Apple’s sound restrictor? Here are the results:
Amazingly, people who wear bike helmets are significantly less likely to download sound restrictor software than people who don’t wear bike helmets. How could that be? One explanation might be that light iPod users are less likely to want to use sound restrictor, feeling that it’s not required for their moderate usage levels. This graph seems to support that notion:
While the results aren’t significant, the trend is there: Heavy iPod users (those using iPods more than 9 hours a week) trend towards being less likely to wear helmets and more likely to want to use sound restrictors compared to light users. Another explanation might be the “cool factor.” Helmets are often seen as uncool, while iPods are very cool, and the sound restrictor wouldn’t be apparent to outside observers the way a helmet would.
Overall, a fascinating result this week. Any other ideas on how to explain it?