Of Two Minds

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There are some things I consider news, and some things I just consider “well, duh.” File this study, which reported that high school students don’t care that loud music damages their hearing, under the second category. Kids These Days ™ have been listening to loud music as long as their has been loud music to listen to, and I doubt very much that this will change. The reason for that is hinted at in the study itself: that teenagers believe themselves to be invincible, with very “low personal vulnerability” to permanent hearing loss. So despite the understanding that loud noise can damage *someone’s* hearing in theory, the that-won’t-happen-to-me mentality wins out.

However, it does happen to them. I get many emails from readers and internet surfers who complain about hearing loss or tinnitus that occurred in their misbegotten youth touring with White Snake (ok, maybe they aren’t loud enough, but you get the picture…). As much as I want to continue researching therapies for deafness, my hope is to one day put myself out of business. However, how can young people be convinced to turn down the music? The short answer is that, as a group, I don’t think they can be. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t ANY recourse though. The study recommends that the devices themselves be designed with hearing protection in mind, which I certainly think is a good idea. These protections do not have to be absolute, but rather guidelines or suggestions similar to the pop-ups on the Nintendo Wii when a person has been playing for a long time (“Why not walk around or take a break?”). The device might issue a brief warning, or beep/vibrate, etc, when the safe window of listening at that particular volume as passed. It could even shut off, if parents wanted to be really over-protective.

Of course, that won’t make the music devices any more popular with teens, and hacks will immediately crop up to get rid or disable them. And hearing damage from concerts, stereos, etc will still occur (not to mention genetic and sudden deafness). Looks like I’ll be in the business a while yet.

Via Engadget

Comments

  1. #1 Homie Bear
    March 29, 2008

    I try telling some of the young guys I work with to wear the free earplugs we all have access to, but they don’t. We are heavy equipment operators working 12 hour shifts so when you don’t put your earplugs in you “hear” the noise for a few hours afterwards and still that doesn’t scare them. I guess I was the same way when I was 18- for the first day at least.

  2. #2 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 29, 2008

    I’m never going to get the Shelly head banging to Whitesnake picture out of my head now.

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    March 29, 2008

    There are some pretty famous rock stars with severe intractable tinnitus. (I think Bob Mould is one of them.) Maybe hearing their stories–and how much suffering they endure–could convince kids to turn down that fucking noise!

  4. #4 joemac
    March 29, 2008

    I am a high-school science teacher with tinnitus from my misspent youth sound business (concerts, indoors and outdoors, recording loud music etc). I also have the usual old age high-end frequency loss.

    I get a great reaction during the sound portion of my course when I use the function generator to shrill out a nice 17000 hz that I cannot hear but drives the kids insane. They really cannot believe that I cannot hear that frequency. I try to tell them that they are at even greater risk than I was, as their earbuds put energy into their ears more efficiently than anything I used to listen to.

    Still, the damage is not today, it is tomorrow, and therefore doesn’t count. You cannot legislate this out of a teenager. You need to protect them without their being aware of it.

  5. #5 The Flying Trilobite
    March 30, 2008

    On the topic of making devices with limited volume, I’ve often wondered why manufacturers make stereo speakers that can go so loud they blow their own components? It’s like putting in a self-destruct button on a car.

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