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Loud Noises Hurt Ears!
September 5, 2006 2:22 PM   Subscribe

"MP3 players should carry warnings that users risk damage to their hearing by having the volume too high, a deafness charity says." Also, for prescription glasses: "If you use these glasses to see things that are disturbing, you could become disturbed." Is this not the height of PC, Western stupidity?
posted by JPowers (74 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Letting stupid people hurt themselves by doing stupid things is a necessary lesson in life. If we warn them it may throw off the balance and evolution may be distorted into allowing these morons to evolve. No warnings for them!
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2006


There's a difference between headphones and most earbuds that come with mp3 players isn't there? Something about sound compression, iirc.
posted by boo_radley at 2:27 PM on September 5, 2006


Don't most iPods and walkmen and such come with those warnings? I'm pretty sure I've seen them.

Anyway, the warning's probably best meant for teenagers, who think nothing of putting their head inside the speaker box at a SunnO))) show. Yes, Timmy, you too can get tinnitus.
posted by fungible at 2:29 PM on September 5, 2006


I'm furious about this & I'm going to post it to my community blog!!
posted by jonson at 2:30 PM on September 5, 2006


Is this not the height of PC, Western stupidity?

No, it's not.
posted by Guy Smiley at 2:32 PM on September 5, 2006


Is this not the height of PC, Western stupidity?

Who the hell cares? Might save one or two people from deafness, would it be so bad? Hating things simply for being "Too PC" is the height of General stupidity.
posted by delmoi at 2:34 PM on September 5, 2006


Political Correctness is a pejorative term used to describe changes made to avoid giving offense, particularly to a minority group.

I'm not really sure how this particular case has anything to do with PC.
posted by Olli at 2:36 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wait, a small charity says something true, and this is the height of PC (sic), western stupidity?

You may not be aware of this, but your perception of your own hearing is very weird. You can easily incrementally acclimate to volume levels that cause permanent critical hearing damage and even inner ear problems.

Unlike any possible analagous situation with prescription glasses, many mp3 players, Apple's in particular, can actually be set so loud that they reach these damaging thresholds.

As a result, warning people that aren't acoustic engineers seems like a pretty good idea. Indeed, without even having it be required by law, most mp3 player manufacturers include prominent warning labels all over the place. Probably costs them about a penny a unit.

Somehow I suspect western civilization will survive.
posted by felix at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is a "deafness charity" not a "minority group"?
posted by JPowers at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2006


I got carded at the supermarket yesterday. I was buying super glue. Our society seems to think it can legislate and warn away any problem humans might face.

"Don't be stupid" would be a far more effective warning. Why isn't it printed everywhere? On packaging, billboards, TV graphics? Clearly we need to warn people about the dangers of stupidity. Maybe all that's necessary is ubiquitous reminders.
posted by SBMike at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2006


WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP CHAINSAW WITH GENITALS.
posted by loquacious at 2:37 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is a "deafness charity" not a "minority group"?

perhaps, but is anyone offended?
posted by Olli at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2006


I'ts a great way for poeple to deny any resposibility for their own actions. Like:
"This coffee can be hot"
"Don't put pets in microwave"
And yes, "Smoking can cause cancer"

Liability lawyers (or whatever they're called, maybe: "the prospect of money") seem to replace common sense...
posted by stFire at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2006


Is this not the height of PC, Western stupidity?

That is not how you say it. You have to say, "It's Political Correctness Gone Mad!". Everyone knows this.
posted by Sk4n at 2:43 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh dear. Apostrophe Crime. Sorry.
posted by Sk4n at 2:44 PM on September 5, 2006


Digital music in general has a wider dynamic range, and MP3's from the net can vary widely in recording characteristics, so an MP3 player is more likely to produce damaging output than a similarly equipped walkman or even a discman.
A warning would be a good idea. Lighten up, libertarians.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2006


If I hadn't read something on the web about this years ago, I would probably be approaching deafness by now. I utterly fail to comprehend how informing people about the unexpected dangers of loud music is a bad idea.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2006


Felix is right. He wrote: "You may not be aware of this, but your perception of your own hearing is very weird. You can easily incrementally acclimate to volume levels that cause permanent critical hearing damage and even inner ear problems."

So... you could think that you're using your iPod in a totally responsible manner, but actually, you wouldn't be. So, a warning makes sense. Why the knee-jerk mockery?

Incidentally, has anyone used the term “politically correct” in a non-pejorative manner at any time in the past 10 years?
posted by ibmcginty at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2006


WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP CHAINSAW WITH GENITALS.

This warning would have been more helpful to me if it also prohibited stopping genitals with chainsaw. My lawyers will be in touch, loquacious.
posted by Kwine at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2006


Is a "deafness charity" not a "minority group"?

No. Deaf people might be a minority group, but that's a different question altogether. The phrase "minority group" has a pretty specific meaning.

As for the warning thing in general, I don't see anything especially PC or even Western about it, unless by "Western" you mean "concerned about lawsuits."

I'm a bit surprised no one has mentioned this article yet.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:07 PM on September 5, 2006


All people are stupid everywhere. Or at least that's my experience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:18 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]



Warning Label Generator
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


My coffee cup did not explicitly tell me not to pour the scalding hot coffee contained in the cup into my lap while I'm driving. I poured the scalding hot coffee into my lap, because the cup didn't tell me not to. When do I get my big settlement check? USA! USA! USA!
posted by pdb at 3:46 PM on September 5, 2006


If I hadn't read something on the web about this years ago, I would probably be approaching deafness by now. I utterly fail to comprehend how informing people about the unexpected dangers of loud music is a bad idea.

I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not. There needs to be a warning label, clearly.
posted by Mikey-San at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2006


.....WHAT?????
posted by you just lost the game at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2006


Is this not the height of PC, Western stupidity?

No. Not by a long shot.
posted by Bort at 3:49 PM on September 5, 2006


My Sony mp3 player has an easy enough work around. The volume was restricted quite a bit and I now listen at ~50% most of the time.
posted by geekyguy at 3:49 PM on September 5, 2006


Yes it is quite easy to creep up the volume levels on headphones to dangerous levels without being aware of it, especially if you are trying to drown out background sounds, etc. Something that may not be immediately obvious. Just ask
Pete Townshend.
posted by zog at 3:49 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Young people think their eardrums are invincible. This is not PC stupidity. Not in the least.
posted by dopamine at 3:52 PM on September 5, 2006


"Don't be stupid" would be a far more effective warning.

As a pretty stupid guy myself, I find I need more specific information than that.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:54 PM on September 5, 2006


Just in case the barrage of warnings from everywhere has missed a target or two, I'll repeat some here.

With headphones, you are missing some of the cues that tell you sound is too loud. You don't have the body cues of powerful bass, and you usually can't hear other sounds to measure against. This is particularly bad in sealed-style cans. Their isolation tends to encourage folks to keep cranking it up. In vain search of that full-body slam, they liquefy their ears.

Generally, the safest way to listen is to A) use open headphones (which isn't always an option, of course), and B) turn it up just loud enough that you can hear it clearly, but no further. If the guy in the next cubicle knows what you're listening to on headphones, it's WAY too loud. Don't try to reproduce the whole-body effect of loud music by pummeling just your ears.

You can do a sanity check by listening to music on real speakers and using a decibel meter. You can get them at Rat Shack for about $30. Myself, I find that 70db is just fine for the vast majority of music listening, and 80db is really loud. Many people start at 85+ and go up fast... to my ears, anything much over 80 gets painful after some period of time. 70 is a nice comfortable level, easily maintainable for hours at a time.

Ears wear out, and the gentler you are with them when young, the longer they'll last when you age. Be extra-careful with headphones. We didn't evolve to deal with point sound sources attached to our ears.
posted by Malor at 4:04 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


What would a deafness charity know about loud music??
posted by lemonfridge at 4:06 PM on September 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not. There needs to be a warning label, clearly.

No sarcasm, but perhaps a touch of unnecessary hyperbole, my apologies. I spent a lot of time listening to ludicrously loud music on headphones (over-ear style) at night until I read something about adaption and the long term dangers, which shook me, so I stopped.

I think loudness in music can reflect the characteristics of addiction, in that you always want a little bit more, and it's easy to ignore warning signs, and not appreciate the damage you are doing.

me & my monkey pretty much sums up my feelings:

"Don't be stupid" would be a far more effective warning...

As a pretty stupid guy myself, I find I need more specific information than that.

posted by MetaMonkey at 4:09 PM on September 5, 2006


All the MP3 players I have employ some kind of sound restricting technology. The iPod calls it 'Volume Limiter' and it allows you to set whatever point you want the maximum volume to peak at. My Samsung uses the same system, but it is a fixed point rather than a user selectable one.

I appreciate that not everyone knows that hearing loss is cumulative, But really, if people can't catch on to the fact that playing loud noises in your ears may cause damage, they need more help than warning labels are probably going to offer.

And if we are going to follow this path, I insist that we put a warning label on the sun which reads "Caution: Bright."
posted by quin at 4:12 PM on September 5, 2006


Boy, where would we be without our beloved nanny state to hold our hand from the cradle to the grave?
posted by keswick at 4:18 PM on September 5, 2006


Don't most iPods and walkmen and such come with those warnings? I'm pretty sure I've seen them.

I thought they already did too. And if they don't, they should, it's a perfectly sensible idea.

JPowers, you sound like the sort of person who boils with rage whenever he sees fruit and veg for sale by the kilo not the pound, and fumes at the fact that 'gay' no longer means happy. Best repost at DailyMailFilter.

And further to Malor's tips - sound isolating headphones allow you to listen at much quieter volumes (though you do have to pay extra attention when crossing the road, since you can't hear anything but the music).
posted by jack_mo at 4:23 PM on September 5, 2006


Pyschoacoustics make you stupid and deaf whilst you mock warning labels, kids. Listen to felix and Malor. This isn't quite "do not stare at sun".
posted by cortex at 4:26 PM on September 5, 2006


I remember exactly this argument when the first Sony Walkman arrived.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:31 PM on September 5, 2006


If it’s too loud, you’re too old.


/on preview: flagged as noise
posted by Smedleyman at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2006


if people can't catch on to the fact that playing loud noises in your ears may cause damage, they need more help than warning labels are probably going to offer.

This is why the poster's analogy doesn't work. Everyone knows that playing loud music can cause hearing loss. What many people don't realize, as others have said, is that playing music that isn't (at least subjectively) loud can cause hearing loss. If you look at the volume levels many of these groups are recommending, they are considerably below what many people would consider loud.

So, yeah, it would be one thing to warn people that listening to loud music can damage your ears, but it's completely different to inform them that they might not even know what constitutes "loud".

As for the nanny state arguments: I wholeheartedly agree, the loss of the right to produce MP3 players without warning labels would be a tremendous loss to our personal liberties.
posted by Doug at 4:33 PM on September 5, 2006


I see this as not merely a warning to people stupid enough to blast their own hearing before they hit 30, but as a favor to those of us who are forced to hear the crap they listen to when they sit next to us on the bus (or even when they stand 15 feet away from us on the bus). If this cuts down on future forced-listening experiences for me (even louder music in stores and restaurants as these losers get older), then I'm all for it!
posted by Lockjaw at 4:34 PM on September 5, 2006


No, it's not stupid at all to warn people about this. My husband bought one of those headphone amps for his electric guitar so he could practice without bothering me. Over the weeks I noticed it went from me not hearing his playing at all to me being able to hear his playing outside the headphones and at a distance. At that same time, I also noticed he would turn the TV up so loud it could be heard on the front porch, which is the moment I decided to ask him if he might not be listening to things too loudly. He hadn't noticed over the previous weeks, he'd been inching up the volume on the headphones until it was at top volume (and he wanted it to get louder still).

He's not stupid, knows the dangers of extended loud sounds, and tends to wear ear plugs when he's using heavy, loud machinery. But the headphones and getting used to the higher volume bit by bit snuck up on him. Now we are working on getting him used to things not blaring at him and hoping he didn't do an damage. So no, not stupid at all to have warnings out about it. Humans are not born with an innate sense of how loud to listen to things with headphones.
posted by Orb at 4:41 PM on September 5, 2006


The Who's Pete Townsend on hearing loss.
posted by ericb at 4:48 PM on September 5, 2006


I guess that there may be some merit in the argument of pro-posing a limit or some kind of warning. I am not a doctor , but as far as I know a person may gradually become deaf without noticing because his perception of "annoying loud" may change during time.

So if for instance my ears a routinely exposed to loud noise, it could become more used to them because I am becoming gradually less sensitive , maybe because of damage to my ears. Which in turn would have me listen to higher "volume" radio/tv which would further only make the damage worse.

Alll of this with barely noticing any change, except when the difference becomes evident like between very old people and youngsters.
posted by elpapacito at 4:49 PM on September 5, 2006


From the article:
"A quiet room at night - 20 decibels
An ordinary spoken conversation - 60 decibels
A busy street - 70 decibels
A pneumatic drill - 100 decibels
Some personal music players (at high volume) - 105 decibels
Aircraft taking off - 110 decibels"

If there indeed are many people listening to music at 105 decibels this is actually something that they need to be given some information about. People who work in the music industry who do sound mixing at live events will often wear earplugs to save their hearing - you don't suppose it just occurred to them suddenly that this was a good idea? Nope, usually a suggestion by a fellow music worker that it would save their hearing. (I have no idea - it may be a union rule for all I know.) I'm sure there is a difference between use of the earbud style vs the worn on outside of ear headphones - I believe the former can be more damaging. It also might be something for mp3 player designers to keep in mind in the future - some way of letting us know what volume level equals how many decibels.
posted by batgrlHG at 4:56 PM on September 5, 2006


If it weren't for my mp3 player ruining my hearing I would be disturbed by sound of that axe grinding.
posted by srboisvert at 5:06 PM on September 5, 2006


My penis has a warning about going blind printed on it.
posted by tkchrist at 5:06 PM on September 5, 2006


...but I can't seem to read it anymore...
posted by tkchrist at 5:07 PM on September 5, 2006


(insert joke about fine print here)
posted by ODiV at 5:23 PM on September 5, 2006


Boy, where would we be without our beloved nanny state to hold our hand from the cradle to the grave?

Did you read the article? It seems as if they are proposing this to the general public and trying to get the industry involved. Nowhere does it mention an attempt to get this legislated.
posted by Falconetti at 5:37 PM on September 5, 2006


Tell me I'm wrong MP3 players ship with sh**t headphones!
If they had a decent set of "in ear" or "closed" headphones then the users would not have to pump them up to get the experience they expect (bass mainly).
It would also stop peple annoying every other commuter within 20 ft.
On the PC front though,
I for one are fed up with going into bathrooms and washing my hands only to encounter signs that read 'Danger water may be hot'
posted by darksmiler at 5:42 PM on September 5, 2006


It seems like we're too preoccupied with prevention. Geez, hasn't anyone every heard of burning out instead of fading away? Really, do we all want to make it so badly to 100 with perfect vision and hearing and teeth and tits that we're willing to sacrifice so much time, effort and money on stupid warnings?!

i know that wasn't very well thought out, but come on people!
posted by sunshinesky at 5:45 PM on September 5, 2006


Um, what everyone else said.

Plus, don't forget, it's not politically correct to call all black men "boy". It's not politically correct to call a women "sugar" or "honey" and slap their asses when they bring you your coffee.

Sometimes, political correctness means, you know, that society has learned that it needs to behave in a more mature fashion.

Jordan
posted by Deathalicious at 5:49 PM on September 5, 2006


Nowhere does it mention an attempt to get this legislated.

i'm sure that's yet to come, Falconetti.
it's called the slippery slope. things like this drive me crazy. why not put warning labels on automobiles saying CARS KILL? or bicycles? or the 100s of other things that may be dangerous? do we really need someone to hold our hand?
posted by brandz at 5:53 PM on September 5, 2006


Jordan?
posted by darksmiler at 5:53 PM on September 5, 2006


posted by sunshinesky: It seems like we're too preoccupied with prevention.

Whoever out there (for example, see MetaMonkey's comments above) who feels that their hearing might've been damaged without some kind of precautionary warning and information would probably disagree with you.

do we all want to make it so badly to 100... that we're willing to sacrifice so much time, effort and money on stupid warnings?!

Doesn't seem to me like warnings such as those being discussed here should take very much time, effort or money at all.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2006


The scalding hot coffee case some folks (see above and at your local pub) like to haul out to tout tort reform, attack government regulators, lampoon consumer activists, or impugn their nieghbor's low level of intelligence is worth actually reading about. The coffee was not just hot. She wound up in the hospital for eight days and needed skin grafting.
posted by Cassford at 7:04 PM on September 5, 2006


Is it really General Stupidity now? Stupidity is really racing up the chain of command. It feels like only yesterday that he was a Major.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:12 PM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Tell me I'm wrong MP3 players ship with sh**t headphones!
If they had a decent set of "in ear" or "closed" headphones then the users would not have to pump them up to get the experience they expect (bass mainly).


You are wrong, but not about MP3 players shipping with meh headphones.

In-ear headphones tend to erode hearing faster than anything else, because there's NO bleed and people STILL turn them up. Imagine shooting a water hose directly into your mouth.

Closed headphones are better, but the problem is that people also want to turn them up higher than they need to, which just results in the same problem. Both designs (all headphones, really, but we're just speaking of these two) have the same basic problem, as mentioned earlier in the thread: most people just don't know when to quit. They're not getting the full-body experience of OH SHIT THIS IS LOUD; they tend not to understand fully the realities of hearing erosion; and it sounds really stupid, but a lot of people think something sounds better when it's really just louder. (Why do you think Bose sells so many of those $140 cone headphones, other than marketing? They're not BETTER, but they damn sure shoot that sound straight toward your tympanic membrane like a locomotive.)

Open-air headphones are the easiest type of headphones on your hearing, but they're not always a viable solution. (Your audio leaks out, outside noise leaks in, they're usually not small, etc.)
posted by Mikey-San at 8:47 PM on September 5, 2006


pdb: in the McDonald's coffee cup suit, the coffee was hot enough to cause .
posted by hammurderer at 9:44 PM on September 5, 2006


I am so damn sick of hearing people talk about the McDonalds hot coffee case as if it were the height of PC-gone-mad insanity -- I spilled hot coffee on myself boo hoo the nanny state should have protected me! -- does anyone actually know the facts? *

Put briefly, McDonalds had a policy of keeping their coffee at 185° -- far hotter than it needed to be, far hotter than any reasonable person would expect, and they knew they were injuring people, hundreds of people.

We're talking about an injury in which someone suffered "full thickness burns ... over 6 percent of her body" and spent eight days in hospital, an injury which was the fault of a big corporation who were on their 700th claim for the same thing and refused even to pay her medical costs.

Pour a big old cup of boiling water down your pants before you whinge about the nanny state next time, please?

* link contains bonus debunking of other "frivolous lawsuit" myths.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:36 PM on September 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


Quite right, AC. It was actually the GTA "Hot Coffee" debacle that was the height of PC-gone-mad insanity.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:55 PM on September 5, 2006


Watching the viciously fact-based smackdown this post has received was almost good enough to make up for the pain of seeing such a crap post on the front page in the first place.

Almost.
posted by moss at 11:33 PM on September 5, 2006


delmoi writes "Who the hell cares? Might save one or two people from deafness, would it be so bad?"

Far more importantly: These kinds of warnings rock, because they're very easy to translate, and in my recent translations, there are pages and pages of these common-sense warnings that no-one reads. Every additional warning is another dollar in my pocket, so keep 'em coming!
posted by Bugbread at 3:50 AM on September 6, 2006


I'd like to add that due to some very harsh restrictions on the output levels of portable music devices in France; almost all mp3-players or portable CD-players produced for the European market are therefore severely limited in their maximum output. This is especially noticeable in the iPod, which has a "European" and an "American" firmware, one of which includes a much lower maximum setting for loudness.

Personally, I prefer in-ear-headphones set to a level just a tad above the background noise; enough that I can react to someone calling my name but also enjoy the music without having to focus on it. I never ran up against the limit this way, and the maximum loudness is (to me) very painful and nothing I could enjoy music at, although I sometimes see people on iPod-boards asking for "unlocking" the maximum setting or instructions on how to patch the firmware. YMMV.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:12 AM on September 6, 2006


Watching the viciously fact-based smackdown this post has received was almost good enough to make up for the pain of seeing such a crap post on the front page in the first place.

Yup, and I notice the only thing JPowers has posted after the idiotic original complaint is an idiotic question. Never apologize, never explain, d00d!
posted by languagehat at 5:59 AM on September 6, 2006


A guy I did some work for last year just bought two chains of hearing aid stores. His thinking is that they're going to be very much in demand over the next 20 years, and he's going to retire happy and rich. We'll see. (Well, he's already rich, but that just shows that he's luckier than the average bear, doesn't it?)
posted by sneebler at 6:51 AM on September 6, 2006


And one last comment on the McDonald's hot coffee thing, she wasn't driving at the time. The car was parked.
posted by inigo2 at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2006


You can't really stop people from wanting to play their music louder. I myself am looking at getting a headphone amplifier for my iPod, like Boostaroo makes.

So a warning label there is. But isn't there a new technology that, when detecting that volume has been set to max, slowly lowers the volume back down? It should exist, if it doesn't.

Also, will people ever drop that stupid McDonald's case? That is the most retarded example of a so-called "frivolous lawsuit" ever.
posted by Down10 at 11:54 AM on September 6, 2006


Curiously, I use my Shure headphones for listening to my iPod while protecting my hearing when working with a Powermatic cabinet saw. /plug by Shure, Apple and Powermatic.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2006



"We know that young people are at risk from losing their hearing prematurely by listening to loud music for too long on MP3 players."


Maybe not such a problem in the long run?
posted by mmrtnt at 4:04 PM on September 6, 2006


I have to say that I much prefer Western political correctness to most forms of Middle-Eastern political orthodoxy. There, I said it.
posted by longsleeves at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2006


I wish I could have one device where I could put ALL my mp3s and carry them around with me. Right now the best I can do is put a few of them into a CD, so I can only carry around about a 150 of them at a time, and can't listen to them when I'm not at my computer at home or in my car.

What would be a good mp3 player? What do you guys use?
posted by ZachsMind at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2006


Alternate firmware.
posted by geekyguy at 11:04 PM on September 7, 2006


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