Taking it down a notch

Two reasons exist for a college student should lower his or her headphone volume: being in the library and taking care of his or her ears.

According to The New York Times, a recent study showed that a quarter of iPod users aged 18 to 54 keep their headphone volume on a level that can damage their ears.

The iPods are only one type out of many digital music (MP3) players that are rapidly gaining in popularity. Now, on a typical college campus, as many as a third of the student population may own MP3 players.

“I listen to my Sony Minidisc in between classes,” Alexandra Sessler, junior, said. “Listening to it keeps me company.”

With the booming popularity of the portable MP3 players, small earbud headphones have become more ubiquitous and are preferred over bigger and less portable ones. However, these ear-fitting headphones have unhealthy characteristics.

Because of their small size, earbud headphones put more sound pressure on the ears.

Also, small headphones cannot effectively block out the surrounding noises, forcing the listener to turn the volume higher.

Under these circumstances, the eardrums are under heavy stress. Stress can induce microscopic damages to the eardrums in addition to the wear and tear from daily functions.

“Hearing loss is a gradual process,” Dr. Howard Anapol of the Student Health Center, said. “People who constantly listen to music too loud will later regret doing so.”

On average, students listen to their MP3 players for more than an hour per day. Students use their MP3 players for many activities, including jogging, walking to classes and while waiting for a bus.

“Regardless of how powerful headphones may be, listeners have to make the decision of whether the headphones are harming them,” Sessler said. “It is each individual’s responsibility.”

Senior Brian Triulzi said that between using his iPod while walking to class and listening to music at home, his headphone usage averages anywhere from five to six hours a day.

“I want to be a music producer, so I wouldn’t change my usage at all,” he said.

Not only can MP3 players stress the ears, cell phones that are too loud have damaging potentials as well. Watching a movie on a laptop with loud headphones on also can complicate hearing.

“My advice is that students think about how loud their music is,” Dr. Anapol said.

Whether or not students listen to that advice remains to be seen.

“With the amount of things that we’re exposed to, your hearing will be damaged anyways,” Triulzi said. “So you might as well do it with something that you’re enjoying.”

Bryce Pham can be contacted at b.pham1@umiami.edu.