Generation Y blows its eardrums

2010-10-31 11:28

 In the lives of Generation Y (18 to 24 years) almost everything (yes, everything) is done with loud music that blares in the background so that the windows are at risk of shattering.

Without this “help” nothing gets done.

An American expert predicts wide-scale deafness for this generation before they reach the age of 50.

South African experts agree.

The use of MP3 players (such as the iPod) and cellphones with earphones is so widespread that more and more people are exposing themselves to overly loud music for long periods of time.

As soon as earphones are used, the source of the sound comes much ­closer to the ear.

“The products don’t necessarily cause damage, we need to realise that. The important fact is that they need to be used in a responsible manner,” says Table View audiologist Elbe Boshoff.

The volume of the sound and the time period for which a person is exposed to a certain volume, determines whether or not the sound (or music) is harmful.

Decibels (dB) are a measurement of sound levels. With every 3dB the ­intensity doubles.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, an MP3 player played at maximum volume measures 100dB.

This is comparable to a music concert where sound reaches levels of about 110dB.

Exposure to these levels of noise so close to the ear is harmful if they last longer than 30 minutes.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to know what is a harmful level of sound, and it would help very much if the manufacturers of the products included guidelines to inform consumers as to what levels of sound can be harmful,” Boshoff says.

Any sound louder than 85dB is regarded as “potentially harmful”.

Labour law states that a worker cannot be exposed to sounds louder than 85dB for more than eight hours a day. With every 3dB, the time you can be exposed to “unsafe” sounds halves.

If you work with a drill which makes a noise of 100dB, you can only be exposed to it for 15 minutes without hearing protection.

Susan Strauss, an audiologist at the Ear Institute in Pretoria, says: “We talk at approximately 65dB and, ­therefore, if you are listening to music through headphones and you cannot hear the conversation next to you, the music is probably too loud.

“The brain doesn’t adjust to ­non-stop sound (such as traffic).

And then the brain is working all the time, even though you think you’re getting used to it.

That’s why it’s important to sleep in a silent place, because sometimes your brain needs to ‘switch off’.”

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