I need music. I can’t drive without the radio; I can’t run without my iPod. I am completely dependent on music. But when I listen to it, I might listen to it a little too loudly. In fact, I might crank up the stereo as far as it goes when I’m on the highway, with the windows down. And, I might pump the volume on my iPod so that the beat pulsates in my ear, drowning out all other noise. And, I may have, once or twice, put on a CD loud enough to continue hearing it throughout the entire house and down to the mailbox. But, who cares. As long as the neighbors aren’t disturbed, I don’t get trampled by an unheard bicycle and I don’t inadvertently total my car, there’s no harm done, except of course to my ears.
Noise induced hearing loss is the most common type of hearing impairment in the United States. It can be caused by working with noisy machinery, close proximity to gunfire or explosions, and prolonged exposure to excessive noises, such as music. Once the ear damage has occurred, it cannot be cured. There is no way to completely reverse permanent hearing loss. The only thing you can do is try to prevent it or try to protect what you have left. And how you do that seems fairly obvious: avoid excessive noise. But for some reason, none of us, including me, are doing that. A recent study found that two-thirds of regular MP3 users are putting themselves at risk for premature hearing loss by listening to their music at distressingly loud levels. Out of 110 listeners, 72 had the volume up beyond 85 decibels, a level that, when listened to for over an hour, can damage hearing. So, every time they popped the headphones in, they were working towards deafness. What’s even more upsetting is that 58 percent of them had no idea they were harming their ears.
So in case you’re one of the unknowing, I’m here to tell you that you are hurting your ears, that I am hurting my ears, and that we need to stop if we want to be able to keep listening to our music and holding conversations without reading lips. Turning down the volume is one of the easiest things we can do. We won’t die if we can’t make out every breath the lead singer takes. In fact, we probably won’t even notice those inhalations are gone.