I’ve recently become concerned about the impact my iPod use is having on my hearing. I listen to sermons approximately 2 hours per day during my commute by bus and subway. Last week I began to notice a funny sensation in my ears after taking the ear buds out when I arrived at home. My ears were closing down like they do when exposed to loud noise. I suspect my ears were in protection mode, but the ear bud was getting the sound by. It wasn’t until I had them out that I realized what was happening.
After doing some research on the web and speaking with a doctor from my church, I have adopted some new healthy hearing habits:
1. Only use one earbud at a time.
Listening to sermons doesn’t require stereo or great detail. If you use one earbud at a time you will decrease the potential damage to your ears by half. If one earbud isn’t cutting through the background noise, see 2.
2. Don’t use earbud with loud background noise.
As background noise increases, such as in a subway car or walking along a busy road, you have to increase the sound which does more damage to your ears (60 db is max, though I have no idea how you measure such a thing on an earbud). When background noise increases, shut the iPod off rather than increase the volume.
3. Change your earbuds for a fully enclosed set of headphones.
Not all studies show that there is any difference in damage between earbuds and headphones. But what headphones do is to cut more background noise which keeps your volume down. They’re not the most stylish things, but I do have more respect for the commuters who wear those big, silly, bulky headsets now. I may end up being one of them. I just want to investigate a bit more.
4. Pay attention to the kind of preacher you’re listening too, and be prepared.
Some preachers speak with a wide range of volume and intensity (John Piper) and others speak with a low range of volume (Wayne Grudem). High range preachers require a more work to balance the volume through a message. It might be advantageous to purchase earbuds that have a volume control on the wire.
5. If you find yourself in mental drift, just shut off the iPod.
Sometimes I have commutes where my mind is preoccupied with concerns of the day and often find myself drifting and rewinding the audio to catch what I missed. If you find yourself doing this, just save your ears and shut off the iPod until your attention is better used.
6. If you drive invest in a convertor.
There are many simple and affordable solutions to connect your iPod directly into your car stereo. If you have a tape cassette player, there’s a cassette like device that loads like a cassette and plays like a cassette, but it’s plugged into your iPod.
Here are two articles I found that provided helpful perspectives on this subject.