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Publisher's Letter

iPOD hearing risk is nothing new

Leo Simpson

Recent reports about a legal suit in the state of California concerning the risk of hearing loss should not be regarded as anything really new. Allegedly, the iPOD can produce sound levels up to 115dB and if you are exposed to those levels for anything but a short time, you will certainly experience temporary hearing loss. If you do it repeatedly, you will go deaf.

Partly, the American legal suit is based on the fact that Apple has limited the output of iPODs sold in France to 100dB – still very loud but not as dangerous as 115dB. My response to this that all iPODs, MP3 players, Discmans, etc do come with a volume control. The iPOD’s volume control is particularly intriguing but it works very well – you can turn the level up and down at will. Turn it up really high and yes, your hearing could be damaged. Do iPOD users care? Probably not.

Should they come with a hearing warning? No. Warnings don’t work for cigarettes or alcohol so why would they work for iPODs.

Are you worried about your son’s or daughter’s hearing? If you can hear the music while they are wearing the earphones, it is probably quite loud, so yes, be concerned. I wish you good luck in trying to change their behaviour.

There is nothing new here. People have been abusing their hearing ever since personal music players have been around – for the last 25 years at least. Probably a majority of the population have inflicted significant hearing loss on themselves by the time they are 40. And because hearing loss is so insidious, they probably don’t even know it. A huge number of people these days listen to their car radios or TVs with the sound levels very high – a sure sign that they are at least partially deaf.

In fact, I find it ironic that people willingly and regularly subject themselves to sound levels that would cause a punitive action against their employers by Workcover, if it happened while they were working.

Of more concern to me is the number of people who now wear (use?) iPODs while walking or jogging along the road. More usually than not, they jog while facing away from the traffic so they are completely oblivious to any hazard from passing traffic. In effect, they are lacking road sense as well as any concern for their own hearing. It seems to me that any pedestrian killed or injured while using an iPOD or other player must be regarded as having contributed to their own misfortune.

If you are a driver and you see someone jogging along the road, assume they are wearing an iPOD and be especially wary – they probably don’t know you are right behind them!

Leo Simpson

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