Personal Music Players Could Lead to Hearing Loss

Kids who listen at high volume might be compromising their hearing.

As a parent, it can be exasperating when your kids are plugged into their headphones all the time. You shout, but they’ve tuned out. It turns out that this habit is more than exasperating—it could be downright detrimental to your kids’ lifelong hearing.

According to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal, young people who listen to personal music players for several hours a day at high volume might be putting their hearing at risk.[1]

Researchers have found that some personal music players can generate levels of sound in excess of 120 decibels—the equivalent of the intensity level of a jet engine. When these devices are used with earphones that are inserted into the ear canal, the decibels are delivered straight into the ear, causing possible long-term effects on hearing.

The technology is too new to understand the long-term consequences and thus far, data is limited. However, common sense should prevail. Researchers have always recognized the importance of avoiding excessive noise exposure. Personal music devices pose a new conundrum—not only is the sound localized directly into the ear canal, but people tend to start using the devices at a young age, thereby prolonging exposure. Only time will tell in terms of the consequences.

In the meantime, parents may want to consider limiting their kids’ exposure to high-volume music delivered via earphones. As if you needed another reason to insist your kids unplug!


[1] Rabinowitz PM. Hearing loss and personal music players. British Medical Journal. 2010; 340:c1261.