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Hearing Loss from Portable Music Players Gets Congressional Attention

As a response to the recent national attention on music-induced hearing loss and portable music systems, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), sent a formal letter (published on the Congressmans web site) to Dr. James Battey at NIDCD, on January 26, 2006, asking for answers to the following questions:

  1. Do portable music players contribute to premature hearing loss? If so, to what extent?
  2. Short of giving up their personal music devices, what can consumers do to protect their hearing?
  3. What research is currently available with regard to safe volume limits and exposure time for recreational listening?
  4. According to the Washington Post, Apple has declined to provide information on the maximum output level for its iPod devices. What information is readily available to consumers regarding the maximum output level for various portable music devices?
  5. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Loud noise above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. How can consumers determine whether they are listening to music at levels that put them at risk for hearing loss?
  6. Do earbuds increase the risk of hearing loss more traditional earmuff style headphones?
  7. Are sound-minimizing headsets (either "noise-canceling" or "sound-isolating" headphones) better for your hearing than traditional headphones or earbuds?

Dr. Battey responded to Rep. Markeys questions on a point by point basis, in addition to providing an overview of peer reviewed research that has been conducted in the area of music/noise-induced hearing loss and NIDCDs public awareness efforts to try and prevent this type of hearing loss. Regarding the interaction of earbud style earphone and increased hearing loss, Dr. Battey stated, Any type of headphone has the potential to cause NIHL if used improperly in terms of absolute level of the sounds, the length of exposure time to sound, and the fit of the earphone or headphone.

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