New device monitors actual noise dose from personal audio systems

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Numerous studies over the last several years demonstrate that most users of personal audio systems (e.g., iPods, MP3 players, smart phones) listen to their devices at too high sound levels. Additionally, in the U.S. a Nielsen study cited in Forbes reported that users listen an average of 4.5 hours a day. That’s enough listening to cause hearing loss due to an excessive total daily noise dose.

Other research shows that personal listening is a major source of noise exposure for those who use these devices.

A report from South Africa describes the development of high fidelity headphones with an in-ear sound level monitor. In describing his invention, Professor De Wet Swaenpol at the University of Pretoria said, “this world-first technology includes high-quality earphones, with an in-ear microphone to measure personal sound exposure in a person’s ear canal.”

When this product is commercially available, users will be able to know exactly how much noise their ears are getting. In the research setting, users changed their listening behavior to reduce the noise dose.

But whether this will encourage users not in the research setting to decrease their daily listening, or the volume at which they listen, remains to be seen.

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