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'Rockin Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu' Without the Earache?

Rock n roll is as subtle as a sledgehammer (great song by Peter Gabriel, of course). Its music thats meant to be played LOUD. REALLY, REALLY LOUD. And its been that way since Bill Haley and the Comets Rocked Around the Clock. In fact, thats the problem too many of us are rocking around the clock and the result is, were losing our hearing.

A study in the UK conducted by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) states that over four million of us between the ages of 16 and 24 risk early-onset hearing loss because we spend too much time blasting too many decibels into our ears through MP3 players. RNIDs chief exec, Dr. John Low, put it this way: If young people dont heed our warnings about safer listening, they could end up facing premature hearing damage. If you regularly plug in, it is only too easy to [turn] up noise doses that could damage your hearing forever.

"I Know, Its Only Rock n Roll, But I Like It.

Loss of hearing is gradual and cumulative in most cases. Yes, severe trauma can produce immediate loss of hearing, but for most of us, going deaf is a lifelong process. And when youre 17-years-old and plugged into Radiohead on your iPod, you aint thinking about being able to hear your grand-daughters first giggle.

The whole point of rock is to make it loud. Play it loud. Otherwise, whats the point? Oh, and rap, with its thumping bass line, is thumping your ear drums, too. So whats a music lover to do?

Apples Ear Protection Patent. Is It Real?

You think Apples legal department might be worried about a slew of lawsuits down the road from people who experienced hearing loss as they ODd on their iPods? It wouldnt surprise anyone.

But the techno-world is abuzz with news that Apple has filed a top secret patent for a sound modulation system that protects the hearing of iPod users whether they want to be protected or not! Even our volume levels are being controlled. That is so anti-rock n roll.

First, this top secret patent application is all over the web. So much for techno-security. If Apple files an ear protection patent, theres going to be a media leak somewhere along the way so, with all the web coverage and converging sources, we can assume that Apple has, indeed, filed a patent for technology that protects the hearing of iPod and iPhone users. Steve Jobs aint no fool.

How Does It Work?

Like an electronic babysitter for the sensitive, inner workings of your ears. Theres a lot of natures equipment in those ears the ear drum, the anvil, hammer and stirrup (the three smallest bones in the body, btw), theres the cochlea that snail-shaped organ thats filled with fluid and tiny, hair-like structures that convert sound waves into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain and processed for use.

So, yeah, theres a lot of delicate equipment inside your ear equipment that can (and will) lead to hearing loss when you overload the system with sound. The typical MP3 player churns out 120 decibels (dB is a measurement of sound volume) and pumps those dBs right down the ol sound chute your ear canal. A 120dB sound level is the equivalent of having a 747 fly 10 feet over your head. We are talking LOUD.

The Apple iPod, under test conditions, puts out slightly less sound at 100dBs but thats still enough sound to do damage. So, the minds behind the iPod decided maybe they should do something to protect the users of their sound-generating products. Hey, these things dont come with warning labels!

So heres the deal: hearing loss takes time. The longer your ears are exposed to loud noise the more damage is done. And the louder that noise, the less time it takes to experience permanent hearing loss. So, according to the technological underground, Apple has submitted a patent that automatically measures the sound volume and the amount of time the user has been listening at that loud volume and turns down the sound automatically right in the middle of the drum solo, dude!

According to insiders, the technology gradually lowers sound volume to safe levels to give the inner ear time to recover. Its all handled for you so, if youre an iPod aficionado, you wont have to make any adjustments to maintain healthy hearing.

Yeah, But What About My Right To Listen As Loud As I Want?

Ahh, the right to go deaf. Yes, of course.

Look, there are plenty of laws to protect dumb people from doing stupid things. Its the law that you have to buckle up for safety when you get behind the wheel, and though its still legal to smoke tobacco until your lungs look like briquettes, the number of places you can light up is dwindling.

The technology, according to industry insiders, is subtle. The sound levels are lowered gradually so the listener isnt startled by a sudden drop in V. Units will also have timing mechanisms that will increase or decrease the volume based on the listeners exposure time to 100 dB sound pressure levels. Those little ear buds can move a lot of sound.

You have the right to hit yourself on the head with a hammer but its probably not a right youd like to exercise too often. You also have the right to blow out your ears if you want to. If hearing health isnt a concern (it should be) have a blast literally.

But remember that hearing loss is gradual and cumulative. You wont notice it right away. It wont happen all of a sudden. But one day, youll notice it. Youll wake up and you wont hear the birds you used to hear outside the window, or you wont hear the furnace kick on. Little things. But little things mean a lot.

Its Your Choice

If youre in the 16-24 listening demographic youre not thinking about hearing loss. You hear fine so no problem, right. But, if youre 45-years old and have trouble hearing what the district manager is saying at a company picnic, you might want to think back to your head-banging days and ask yourself if it was worth it.

As a product of the 60s, looking back, I can tell you that it isnt.

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