The consensus in the scientific community is that MP3 players can cause irreversible hearing loss, not surprising given that the devices can produce a maximum volume of 100 to 115 decibels – the equivalent of attending a rock concert. Some studies have even found that people in their 20s are developing hearing loss normally seen in 50 year olds, thanks to loud music from iPods, Walkmans and other similar devices. So how can you make sure you’re using your MP3 player in a safe and responsible manner?

  1. Turn it down. Researchers agree that it’s fine to regularly listen to an MP3 player at around 70% of its maximum volume. Any louder than that is dangerous over an extended period of time.
  2. Keep track of time. It’s not just the volume that contributes to hearing loss – the length of time you listen can also be damaging. Give your ears a rest occasionally to let them recover.
  3. Use volume control. This is a feature specific to iPods that allows you to set your device’s maximum volume. See instructions here.
  4. Ditch the earphones. You know those white earphones you get with a new iPod? Don’t use them, or any other earphones. Earphones are more likely than headphones (the sort that cover the ear) to cause hearing damage. This is because earphones have a higher volume output level than headphones at any given volume setting, making them 9 dB louder in some cases. Additionally, earphones are less effective at blocking out background noise, meaning the user is more likely to turn up the volume.
  5. Invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. Background noise can affect how you listen to music. For example, if you’re on a train, it’s likely that you’ll turn up your iPod’s volume to compete with the noise. Noise cancelling headphones eliminate ambient noise, so you’re free to listen to your device at a lower, safer volume.