Thursday, May 12, 2005

iPod panic

'iPods can make you deaf', declared the London Evening Standard, reporting on comments from a leading hearing expert. Andrew Reid, head of audiology at the Royal United Hospital in Bristol, said: 'This is a big problem for young people, and there is a real risk that prolonged listening could lead to permanent hearing damage....

'If you are on a Tube, you have to turn the player up to dangerous levels just to hear it. Over time, this is going to lead to problems like tinnitus and severe damage to the inner ear.' The Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) has launched a new campaign, 'Don't Lose The Music', to highlight the dangers of listening to loud music.

Persistently listening to very loud music over a long period of time can damage hearing, but it is a long way from that to implying that iPods are causing an epidemic of deafness.

This latest story isn't based on new research suggesting that levels of deafness are increasing because of MP3 players. 'We don't have any facts and figures about it', Susan Duncan of the RNID told spiked. Indeed, the RNID is none too happy with the tone of the story, particularly as reported by the Standard. 'What we are looking to do is prevent hearing damage. We want people to turn down the volume because of the potential for hearing damage. We're not saying that iPods are dangerous or that thousands of people are being made deaf by them.'

The emphasis of the RNID's campaign is to allow people to listen to music for as long as possible by pointing out warning signs. Essentially, if you're getting a ringing noise in your ears, take a break from the iPod, the loud nightclubs or the concerts, to give your hearing a chance to recover - and consider turning the volume down a bit. Otherwise, you're unlikely to have a problem.

The iPod story fits into a wider morality tale - that innovations 'bite back'. For every positive development, we are warned that there is a dark side that will ultimately damage us. The real victim of the iPod is not the owner: it's the person sat next to them forced to listen to their tinny beats. That's a much better reason to turn the music down.

'iPods can make you deaf', This is London, 11 May 2005

Don't Lose The Music, RNID