House Ear Institute, Los Angeles, and Creative, Milpitas, Calif, a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products, have joined forces to provide music lovers with information about adopting healthy listening habits when enjoying music and movies through headphones plugged into Creative’s ZEN MP3 and portable media players.

Creative’s entire line of ZEN MP3 and portable media players, including the new ZEN Vision W and the ZEN V Plus, has been designed with an audio setting called “Restrict Volume” that allows users to adjust the desired maximum volume. ZEN MP3 and portable media players come packaged with safety guidelines from experts of HEI instructing users on safe listening practices. The package insert, titled “Creative Cares About Your Hearing,” resulted from discussions between HEI and Creative concerning the importance of educating consumers about safely listening to music and movies through headphones. The insert provides guidelines that allow consumers to make responsible choices about their hearing health.

“Ever since MP3 players hit the market, experts in the hearing health field have been examining the possibility that these devices contribute to noise-induced hearing loss if played at high levels for long durations," says Jim Boswell, CEO of HEI. “These digital players offer a very clean sound signal, even at volume levels exceeding 100 decibels, so the user may be unaware when they are exceeding a safe limit for their ears and must be alerted to the potential for danger. We are impressed that Creative has taken a proactive approach in urging its customers to adopt smart listening habits.”

“Creative and the House Ear Institute have outlined some simple guidelines that
users can follow to safeguard their hearing when listening to ZEN MP3 players through headphones,” said Lisa O’Malley, Creative’s senior brand manager of portable media players. “It’s easy to enjoy music and movies safely by just listening at reasonable volumes, limiting exposure to higher volumes, and taking periodic 15-minute breaks when listening to your ZEN MP3 player.”

Though it will be some time before experts know for certain whether hearing can be damaged by MP3 players, it’s known that excessive exposure to any sound at average levels above 85 decibels can cause cumulative hearing loss over time. Informal lab tests conducted at House Ear Institute revealed peak output levels of up to 115 decibels for some MP3 players. Users who want to protect their hearing from noise-induced hearing loss need to cap their average listening levels at 85 decibels and reduce the duration of their listening times. And surprisingly, a recent survey (conducted by Zogby International) on consumer use of personal electronic players and headphones indicates that both teen and adult users are likely to turn the volume way up, while adults are more likely to listen for longer periods.

“The duration and repetition of sound exposure, its intensity, and individual susceptibility determine your risk for noise-induced hearing loss,” says research audiologist Andy Vermiglio, MA, CCC-A, FAAA, HEI. “You can reduce your risk for permanent noise-induced hearing loss by choosing MP3 players and other electronic devices that allow you to set your personal volume levels to 85 dB or lower. You should also make sure that sound levels during work and recreation are safe, and remember to reduce your overall listening time.”

For more information on safe listening, visit www.hei.org/education/soundpartners/sp.htm or www.us.creative.com/protectyourhearing.com.

[SOURCE: HEI, October 2006]