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.