Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The iDeaf Generation?

Yes, I'm posting during the day. Hell has frozen over, no doubt (look over there--Lucifer is adjusting his parka!). But no, actually, it's the end result of two students being out sick (that's a safe guess, since they usually don't skip school in middle school). That launched the lunch hour early: Free Potbelly, as mentioned yesterday, during the heart of the busy hour, yet the line wasn't bad at all. Got to take The Walk™ during daylight--it was an unexpected treat.

So I guess that I'm one of the only people left on the planet who doesn't own an iPod (or an iRiver, an iDontcarewhatbranditis, a uCanhearmymusicinthenextcounty, or anything of that ilk). Though I do have an iPod on my Amazon Wish List, it's actually way down on the list of "must-have" gadgets, far behind the new TV, the entertainment center in which to put said TV, and of course the eventual replacement for the Ancient and Venerable iMac, which I plan on "driving until the wheels fall off." Admittedly, an iPod would be cool for things like long plane trips, since I wouldn't have to carry my Discman and all those CD's anymore, but it's not like I have to have one tomorrow.

And maybe that's a good thing. An article in today's DMN talks about what many people have been suspecting all along: Improper use of personal stereos can cause excessive hearing damage, especially in young people:
Audiology experts agree that hearing loss is increasing in the United States. According to widely cited figures from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the number of Americans age 3 and older with some form of auditory disorder has more than doubled since 1971, from 13.2 million to about 30 million today. Of those, one-third are said to be people with noise-induced hearing loss.

The trend clearly predates the iPod; in fact, it traces its roots to the dawn of the industrial age, according to Pam Mason, ASHA's director of audiology professional practices. These new devices merely add to a daily din of environmental noise that includes traffic, construction, jets and leaf blowers.
The experts admit that iPods themselves are too new to have made an appearance in the testing done on personal stereo users, especially since noise-related hearing loss develops over an extended period of time. Still, if tests done on Walkman and Discman users are any indication, the headphones can certainly pack a wallop if used to extremes:
In the case of one brand of player matched with a particular brand of earphone, he found that listeners could get a sound dose as high as 120 decibels. This is comparable to the sound level at a loud rock concert or sandblasting; it could lead to risk of hearing damage after 7.5 minutes of exposure.

Preliminary data on iPods and similar devices have found lower maximum levels – above 100 decibels (the noise volume of a chainsaw; risk of hearing damage after two hours), but not higher than 115 decibels (a football game in a loud stadium; risk of hearing damage after 15 minutes), Dr. {Brian] Fligor [director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital in Boston] said. To fully understand the potential impact of these devices, it is important to know that the sound travels a tiny distance from earbud to eardrum rather than being diffused in a football stadium or concert arena.
The article also notes that regular headphones are less likely to do damage than earbuds (all other things being equal), and that a good way to tell if your music is too loud is if someone three feet away from you in an elevator can hear your music, or if you have to turn the music down to understand someone who's speaking to you--that makes sense to me.

Besides the obvious fact that, as a musician, I need my hearing for my livelihood, I have another reason to be careful in this area: I'm pretty sure I've had some hearing loss already. One semester at the college, while filling in for my colleague on sabbatical, we were moved to a new rehearsal hall before the soundproofing had been completed (it used to be an art studio before it was given to us). That meant that the room was LOUD, and on one day of the week, I had to direct two big bands and two combos in that room. I've had a slight ringing in my ears ever since, but even though I don't think my hearing loss was excessive (in other words, I don't have to have people speak up in order to understand them, nor do I have to turn my TV up to a ridiculous volume), I still feel like I "took one for the team" that semester. I suppose that, if the damage had been profound, I would have gone after the company doing the soundproofing, since the work they promised would be done in August wasn't actually done until April. Still, I really need to get up to that musician's health clinic at UNT and get fitted for some custom earplugs before long; they let you hear the good stuff and keep out the bad stuff. (John Murphy and others discuss this topic recently (scroll down a few posts) at the new Green Room site.)

At any rate...the jury's still out on what iPods might do, but the potential for damage is there, so--like most everything else--let's use a little common sense, OK?

QUOTE OF THE DAY (added later): This one could go lots of bad places, so I'm just posting it as is...
$300 A MOUTH

At least he spelled ROOMMATE correctly; I've seen lots of signs looking for a ROOMATE. On one of them when I was in college, a wiseguy wrote in, "To share a ROO?" But I guess that only happens in Australia, after said Roo is finished grilling on the barbie. (Sorry, James, I couldn't resist. Feel free to post a Texan joke on your site or something.)


James said...

Lol - that's not a joke mate, that's true! We love to chuck some Kangaroo steaks on the BBQ :) It's a tops meat... very rich though.

I do believe we're the only country in the world that eats it's national emblem :)

Kev said...

LOL, yeah, we'd kinda get busted if we grilled up some eagle over here.

Anonymous said...

I was gonna give you my 20GB Creative Zen (aka - iPlayMusicOnlyIfYouDon'tUpdateTheDriversAndFirmware..EVER), but it isn't Mac compatible. You don't happen to have a PC floating around in a closet some where do you?

Kev said...

Nah, never will a computer that runs on the Bill Gates Evil Empire OS darken the halls of Casa de Kev, unless I rent my spare room out again. And when/if I do get a "personal mp3 player," it'll definitely be a true iPod...but thanks for the thought.

Anonymous said...

Anytime.. :-)
I figure it's so "old" that I could maybe get $20 for it. I'd rather just give it to someone I know would use it.

When iPod and Creative first launched their mp3 players, Creative was the better unit. Creative still manufactures a tougher unit, but the software and drivers tend to make things explode. Overall, iPod blows everything out of the water now.

I'm proud to say that there are 2 iPods and an iMac in this house. I still have my PC.. but I built it so that makes it less evil (right??), and I'm not divulging how I acquired the OS I'm using (*cough*). I haven't had the guts to load Linux onto it as I kinda need a functioning computer for school. Mark my words, one day I will become a member of that elite computer nerd group that uses a Linux box.