Turn Down The Volume

Think twice before reaching for your MP3 player, particularly if you use earbuds.

The placement of the device directly inside the ear and increased volume due to proximity make earbuds potentially more harmful than older, muff-style headphones.

“Acoustic trauma caused by loud music and other intense noise is a tremendous hazard,” said local clinical audiologist Dr. Richard Wright, who added that the average age at which a person will require hearing aids has dropped significantly – from 70 to 55.

Apple responded by adding a volume-limiting feature to its newest generation of iPods and creating a “Sound and Hearing” tutorial online at apple.com/sound. Lowering the volume and curbing listening time to an hour per day may prevent damage to the ear’s delicate infrastructure.

Wright, who is with Hearing and Balance Associates of Northwest Florida, discourages the use of headphones during exercise or strenuous activity and advises consulting a pharmacist before taking new medications that may have ototoxic side effects. (“Ototoxic” is defined as “having a harmful effect on the organs or nerves concerned with hearing and balance.”)

Noise exposure is a leading cause of hearing loss, along with medications, the aging process, trauma, disease processes and hereditary predisposition.

If your hearing is suffering, don’t let the fear of bulky hearing aids discourage you from consulting a physician.

“People need to realize that even if we are biologically programmed to lose our hearing, it just isn’t that big of a deal anymore,” Wright said. “Nothing is a replacement for the ‘original merchandise,’ but current technology is pretty fabulous.”

You can say that again.

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