Personal Music Players Damage Hearing Over Time

TUESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Personal music players may pose a major risk to hearing if they're played too loudly or for too long, researchers report.

The 24-year study included 8,710 girls from poorer families, average age 16, whose hearing was tested when they entered a residential facility in the northeastern region of the United States. Between 1985 and 2008, high-frequency hearing loss -- a common result of excessive noise exposure -- among the girls nearly doubled, from 10.1% to 19.2%.

Between 2001 and 2008, personal music player use among the girls rose fourfold, from 18.3% to 76.4%. During that same period, high-frequency hearing loss increased from 12.4% to 19.2%, and the proportion of girls with tinnitus (ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears) nearly tripled, from 4.6% to 12.5%, the investigators found.

Girls who listened to personal music devices were 80% more likely to have impaired hearing than those who didn't use the devices, the study authors reported. Of the teens with tinnitus, 99.7% used the devices.

However, while the findings show an association between personal music players and hearing problems, it doesn't show cause-and-effect, noted study author Abbey Berg, a professor in the biology and health sciences department at Pace University in New York City.

Other factors in the girls' lives -- such as poverty, poor air quality, substance abuse and risk-taking behavior -- could add to the effects of noise exposure from personal music players, she said.

The findings, released online Aug. 31 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, indicate the need to improve efforts to educate young people about safe use of personal music players, Berg suggested.

"You have to target them at a much younger age, when they are liable to be more receptive," she said.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Center for Advancing Health, news release, Aug. 31, 2010