Hearing aids, MP3 players
How iPods Can Make you Rich, Rich, RichBy Dr. Gifford Jones
Anyone interested in a hot tip on how to make a lot of money without any risk? It’s not my job to pass along financial advice, but in this instance I can’t resist the urge. Invest in a hearing aid company, because the next generation is going deaf and they don’t know it.
A French proverb says, “I do not like noise unless I make it myself”. This proverb must have been uttered centuries ago when someone was enjoying a glass of chardonay in a sleepy French village. Today, we’re running out of quiet places to hide and escape noise. And excessive sound from MP3 players such as the iPod is a gift from Heaven for those selling hearing aids.
Today iPods and other portable music devices have changed the way people listen to music. Moreover, the popularity of these devices increases each year. Hearing experts now say that the number of people with hearing loss will become as commonplace as the devices themselves.
Dr. Jodi Cook, director of the hearing loss program at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, reports that, “With the older devices like the Walkman, if you turned them up all the way they sounded very bad, so people didn’t do it. Now they don’t sound bad at maximum volume and that could pose a problem.”
It’s estimated that 33 million North Americans have some hearing loss and in one-third of that number it’s due to noise. One hearing loss expert told me that almost every person 16 years of age and older has some degree of hearing loss.
The enjoyment of bread and wine in a quaint French village exposes you to about 25 decibels of noise (a decibel is a measure of sound intensity). During normal conversation it’s 40, city traffic 80 and on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz it rises to 120. Portable music players can produce sounds up to 130 decibels. And authorities agree that prolonged exposure to 90 decibels is hazardous to hearing.
So how does excessive noise cause hearing loss? Hair cells situated in the cochlea of the ear stimulate nerve fibers to transmit messages to the brain where they are perceived as sound.
Normal hair cells, viewed under high magnification, look like rows of planted trees. Like Katrina, that toppled and bent trees in New Orleans, sudden load noise bends or breaks off hair cells. And like teeth, once they’re lost, they never grow back. So it’s easy to end up bald of hair cells in the ear long before you lose hair on the top of your head.
It’s ironic that noise is a “silent killer”. iPod lovers have no idea that they’re gradually losing their hearing. It’s only years later when they’re constantly saying “pardon me” that they realize they’ve become deaf.
So what can you do to prevent hearing aid company from becoming rich? Since most can’t measure the decibel level of music, there are other ways of knowing if the volume is too high.
Make sure that your MP3 player volume isn’t set higher than 60 per cent of the maximum volume. It’s also too high if you can’t hear conversation going on around you. Or if people near you can hear the music. And you find yourself shouting, instead of talking, when you respond to people nearby.
I don’t think we’re going to save the hearing of younger generation until they realize that noise is noise regardless of where it comes from.
Several years ago, I spent several days aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz. The flight deck is not only one of the most dangerous places in the world, but also one of the noisiest. On its deck it’s mandatory that everyone wear ear protection. And no sane person would fail to use ear protection at a shooting range.
Unfortunately, the only way for iPod lovers to guard against excessive music is to turn down the volume. But will they do it? I doubt it as hearing loss is not high priority until you lose it. And silent killers are always a hard sell.
So shall we all become rich, rich, rich? If you know a better way, please let me know.
Dr. Gifford Jones Bio
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W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones He ca.n be reached at: