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Experts warn combination of MP3 players and festive season partying could seriously damage your hearing; The longer you listen, the higher risk of damage.

Byline: Gerry Holt

YOU can fit your entire music collection on to it and enjoy unrivalled sound quality.

But experts today warn that MP3 players can have a devastating impact on hearing because fans of the device are able to listen for as long as they want and at higher volumes.

Kevin Thomas, a registered hearing aid audiologist, believes the rise of the MP3 player could pose a significant risk to people's hearing - and with millions of the music players expected to be given as Christmas presents, he is urging people to use them responsibly.

The warning comes as RNID Cymru - the Royal National Institute for Deaf People - today released figures which show more than half of people in Cardiff listen to their music at a level which could cause lasting damage.

That factor, coupled with the cumulative effects of loud music at festive parties, pubs and clubs, could haveadevastating effect, the charity is warning.

Mr Thomas, of Specsavers' hearing service in Cardiff, said there was a tendency to use MP3 players in noisy environments, such as at the gym or on a train, where listeners are forced to push the volume up to be able to hear the music.

"A traditional walkman distorts as you turn the volume up - the difficulty with an MP3 player is that you can turn the volume up far louder, therefore causing much more damage to hearing than a traditional walkman would," he said.

"The big thing with MP3 players is that quite often people use them in noisy environments.

"For example, if you're on a train you might turn the volume up to cover up the background noise of the train and to hear the music more clearly.

"The volume gradually goes up and up but you don't really notice."

Mr Thomas said he also believed that the sheer amount of music which can be stored on an MP3 player could contribute to hearing problems.

"Obviously the longer you listen toadevice, the more damage you can cause," he said.

Richard Williams, director of RNID Cymru, said the combined effect of using MP3 players and partying over the festive season could have serious implications for people's health.

He said: "RNID's research found people tested in Cardiff are listening to their MP3 players at unbelievably high levels, with some people blasting their ears with sound levels of 100 decibels or more - the equivalent of hearing a pneumatic drill 10ft away.

"One MP3 user was listening at 109 decibels for two hours each day, a volume they shouldn't be exposed to for much more than one minute per day.

"Many music lovers, already running the risk of damage through listening to their MP3 players too highly, will be partying to even more loud music during the festive season, completely oblivious to the danger to their hearing.

"With more people receiving MP3 players as Christmas gifts, it's essential they're aware of the risk and able to make informed choices and take the steps to protect their hearing so they can enjoy music for longer."

The RNID's Don't Lose the Music Squad toured eight cities across the UK to spot-check the volume of shoppers' MP3 players.

They found that 54% of MP3 player users tested in Cardiff were risking permanent hearing damage by listening to their devices at dangerously high volumes for longer than the recommended daily exposure limit.

RNID Cymru, which represents the 480,000 people in Wales who are deaf or hard of hearing, is urging music lovers to follow their guidelines for safer listening.

They say music fans should take a five-minute rest for every hour listening to an MP3 player; invest in noise-cancelling or soundisolating headphones that cut out background noise; stand away from loudspeakers in pubs, clubs and concerts; take regular breaks from the dance floor and wear earplugs.


DEAFENING: Music lovers with too-loud MP3 players, or who party to too-loud music, can be oblivious to the risks PICTURE: Rob Browne
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 9, 2008
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