iPod earbuds could cause hearing loss | iLounge News


iPod earbuds could cause hearing loss

The type of earbud headphones that come bundled with every iPod sold can cause serious hearing loss, according to a Northwestern University professor and audiologist. The earbuds can lead to permanent damage after only an hour of high-volume music in the 110- to 120-decibel range, the equivalent of a concert, said professor Dean Garstecki. He recommends switching to over-the-ear headphones, listening to your tunes no more than an hour a day, and turning down the volume.

“Insert earphones can boost the signal by as much as six to nine decibels. That’s about the difference between the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a motorcycle,” said Garstecki. “It’s a significant difference.” He also noted that the storage space on iPods contributes to problems. “Not only do you have a signal that is likely to be more intense, you’re likely to be using this device longer than people have been using CD players and Walkmans in the past. This increases the likelihood of hearing loss down the road.”

For a more complete article about this issue please read “Listen Safely: Your Ears and Your iPod” by iLounge’s Kirk McElhearn.

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thats kinda funny, since im always with my ipod, and i always put it on really loud. ive noticed my hearing a bit low.

Posted by navas on December 21, 2005 at 12:32 AM (CST)


hey just one question—do you guys have to purchase the songs you download for your ipod? i’m new to all of this.thanks

Posted by ? on December 21, 2005 at 1:34 AM (CST)


In ear headphones lower outside noise, resulting in lower necessary volumes to hear music clearly. It’s a fact. I tried on my friend’s ec4’s, and was shocked at how low I needed the iPod’s volume to be.

Posted by minty on December 21, 2005 at 1:35 AM (CST)


This article would seem to be an example of poor reporting once again. It refers to Apple’s stock earbuds and then quotes “Insert earphones can boost the signal by as much as six to nine decibels”. The next line of the article states “Earbud headphones, the type that rest inside the ear, can lead to permanent damage after just an hour of high-volume music in the 110-120 decibel range, equivalent to the noise level of a concert, Garstecki said.”

I think they are talking about in-ear or canal phones and not the stock earbuds.

Poor reporting.

Posted by Will on December 21, 2005 at 1:38 AM (CST)


I understand people making fun of this item. I can also understand that warning of hearing loss is associated with being old. But I can tell you that all these concerts I attended and listening to my Walkman since 1980 has caused hearing loss. What’s even worse is the tinnitus. I like music very much. I also like total silence every once in awhile, especially when I’m trying to sleep. But I have to live with a very loud buzz/peep in both my ears and I can tell you: it has driven people totally crazy. I do listen to my iPod though. But I keep the volume down and only for an hour through headphones. I want to keep enjoying music for the rest of my life.

Posted by elppadopi in Amsterdam on December 21, 2005 at 9:19 AM (CST)


I don’t fault the iPod’s capacity for longer listening sessions, but the Apple earbuds may well contribute to hearing loss.

I rid of my Apple earbuds soon after my iPod purchase due to the lack of holding-in-the-ears and the crappier sound quality.  But what I’ve also noticed about these buds is their need for LOUDER volumes to hear the music fully in detail. 

There is no sound isolation with the original white buds, so one usually has to compensate the sound by raising the volume a bit high (especially in public areas).  High volumes at long extended periods can cause tinnitus and hearing loss (not fun).

I bought myself a pair of Shures and since they are a better build and fit in my ears, they can be played at lower volumes—in turn, this saves my ears and my iPod battery in the long run.

Make the switch for aural improvement, appearance and ear safety.  Completely worth it!

(I’ve heard many people complain about purchasing expensive earphones.  You’ll pay 300+ for a listening device, but won’t truly appreciate it or make another jump for better phones.  It does not make sense.  The iPod IMPROVES itself ten-fold with better phones!)

Posted by Chris on December 21, 2005 at 10:33 AM (CST)


Check out this link to the American Tinnitus Association: http://www.ata.org/about_tinnitus/consumer/healthy_hearing1.html

Here are common noise levels from their website:
20 dB Ticking watch
30 dB Quiet whisper
40 dB Refrigerator hum
50 dB Rainfall
60 dB Sewing machine
70 sB Washing machine
80 dB Alarm clock at two feet
85 dB Average traffic
95 dB MRI
100 dB Blow dryer, subway train
105 dB Power mower, chainsaw
110 dB Screaming child
120 dB Rock Concert, thunderclap
130 dB Jackhammer, jet engine plane (100 ft. away)
140 dB Shotgun blast, airbag deployment, firecracker

Here are the time limits for permissible exposure:

Hours Per Day Sound Level
8         90 dB
6         92 dB
3         90 dB
2         100 dB
1.5         102 dB
1         105 dB
.5         110 dB
.25 or less   115 dB

There you have it, folks.  I guess I can tell my wife it is unsafe to listen to my infant cry for more than 30 minutes and she HAS to take over.  Seriously though, hearing damage is cumulative and irreversible.  We all already have hearing loss, just at different hopefully imperceptible levels.

Posted by rochester on December 21, 2005 at 11:17 AM (CST)


You can listen to Dean Garstecki in an interview about this topic here:


Posted by Joshua on December 21, 2005 at 3:30 PM (CST)


This is the dumbest thing i have ever heard, any set of headphones which go into your ears have the potential to cause hearing damage.. well anything does actually. This will be a catalyst for sue happy people to file another lawsuit against apple.

Posted by Asher on December 22, 2005 at 4:36 AM (CST)


Just a point of interest: The Apple Ipod is louder than say a typical walkman because Steve Jobs is PARTIALLY DEAF! They had to keep turning up the volume levels on the prototypes because Steve couldn’t hear it. Knowing Steve’s business style, he wasn’t satisfied until it sounded good to HIM. So we can all thank Steve for the hearing loss. Lawsuit anyone? LOL.

Posted by Joey on December 25, 2005 at 8:05 AM (CST)


I think some people on this board need to get their facts straight. I was happy to see that some people can look at this and use what intellect they have to understand that what this Garstecki guy is saying is not that these earphones cause hearing loss, but they might have the potential to do so at high levels, just a warning. Has anyone actually read articles about earphones? Maybe some of you should do some homework BEFORE making assumptions.

Posted by John on January 5, 2006 at 9:02 PM (CST)


but someone sued them over this… so dumb.. your a dumbass if you dont turn down the volume! lets listen it at max all day, yes our mothers didnt warn us that was bad..oh no.. that is not commen knowlage.. what load music hurts my hearing..your kidding!

Posted by Shannon on February 2, 2006 at 11:20 PM (CST)

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