Portable music can cause hearing lossFebruary 8, 2011, 9:15 pm
* Refrain from listening to music in noisy environments, as prolonged exposure to high volumes through ear phones can damage ear-drums
By Dilanthi Jayamanne
The Industrial Technology Institute of Sri Lanka (ITI) warned that high decibel sound levels from portable music players, such as mobile phones and iPods, could cause noise induced hearing loss, a defect that cannot be cured and would require the use of hearing-aids. Addressing a media briefing at the Ministry of Science and Technology on Tuesday (8), Senior Deputy Director ITI Ananda Pannila warned that a majority of Sri Lankan youth were susceptible to the loss of hearing as they tend to use portable music devices, such as iPods and mobile phones, more often.
The music devices are mostly used while travelling – especially in public transport where a person has to increase the sound level of the portable music device to block out the surrounding noise. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause loss of hearing. He said that sound levels less than 75 decibels even after long exposure was likely to cause loss of hearing.
The best thing to do, he said, was to refrain from listening to music in noisy surroundings.
The Electro Technology Laboratory unit of the ITI conducted a study on the impact of portable music devices on hearing. "Equipment was setup to determine the actual noise level produced by ‘ear- buds,’ or in-ear head phones, inside the ear with different types of mobile phones, Pannila said.
An artificial ear was used in which the ear-bud/head phone was placed and simulated to the human ear. A microphone was placed to determine the sound level which was measured by a sound level meter. Measurement was carried out at 50 percent and 90 percent volume control settings of a mobile phone. The same song was played for a period of three minutes.
The study revealed that an MP3 player of a standard mobile phone produced a sound level of 85 to 100 decibels [dB(A)] at 90 percent volume control of the tested items. A sound level in the range of 70 to 85 decibels [dB(A)] was observed with 50 percent volume control settings.
"Exposure to this range of sound levels for a long duration continuously could increase the possibility of developing hearing impairments," he warned.
Exposed to harmful noise, the sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). This deficiency cannot be cured. The only available treatment is to use a hearing aid, Pannila warned.
"Portable MP3 players should not be used for more than ten minutes per day with over 90 percent volume control setting. Generally the safest limit for volume control is between 50 to sixty percent on a portable music device. Even at that level, it should not be used for more than three to four hours per day. And do not increase the volume control setting when you are listening to your player in noisy surroundings. It is better to refrain from listening to music when in noisy surroundings, he cautioned.
Pannila said the ITI would carry out further research in wedding halls, public transport and night clubs for noise/music induced hearing impairments.
Minister of Technology and Research Pavithra Wanniarachchi said of the 20 million population, around 14 million people owned mobile phones. The Ministry would take steps to create awareness on the risk of using portable music devices at high volumes. The government was concerned as those who are at risk are the youth of the country, she said.
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