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New hope for adults with severe high-frequency hearing loss

The FDA has approved the first implantable hearing device to treat the condition

An implantable device is now available for people 18 and older with severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss of high-frequency sounds in both ears, but who can still hear low-frequency sounds with or without a hearing aid.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its approval to the Nucleus Hybrid L24 Cochlear Implant System, which may help those with this specific kind of hearing loss who do not benefit from conventional hearing aids.

A common ailment

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss and occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea). It may be caused by aging, heredity, exposure to loud noise, drugs that are toxic to the inner ear (e.g., antibiotics), and certain other illnesses.

People with severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss of high-frequency sounds may have difficulty hearing faint sounds, understanding people with higher-pitched voices, hearing certain speech sounds, and, in some cases, hearing high-pitched emergency vehicle sirens or common safety alarms, such as smoke detectors.

“Hearing loss greatly impacts the education, employment, and well-being of many Americans,” said Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “This device may provide improved speech recognition for people with this kind of hearing loss, who have limited treatment options.”

The Nucleus Hybrid L24 Cochlear Implant System combines the functions of a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. This electronic device consists of an external microphone and speech processor that picks up sounds from the environment and converts them into electrical impulses.

The impulses are transmitted to the cochlea through a small bundle of implanted electrodes, creating a sense of sound that the user learns to associate with the mid- and high-frequency sounds they remember. The hearing aid portion of the device is inserted into the outer ear canal like a conventional hearing aid, and can amplify sounds in the low-frequency range.

Positive results

The agency evaluated a clinical study involving 50 individuals with severe to profound high-frequency hearing loss who still had significant levels of low-frequency hearing. The individuals were tested before and after being implanted with the device.

A majority of the patients reported statistically significant improvements in word and sentence recognition at six months after activation of the device compared to their baseline pre-implant performance using a conventional hearing aid. The device also underwent non-clinical testing, which included the electrical components, biocompatibility and durability of the device.

Side effects possible

Of the 50 individuals participating in the study, 68% experienced one or more anticipated adverse events, such as low-frequency hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), electrode malfunction and dizziness. Twenty-two developed profound or total low-frequency hearing loss in the implanted ear, six of whom underwent an additional surgery to replace the Nucleus Hybrid L24 Cochlear Implant System with a standard cochlear implant.

While the risk of low-frequency hearing loss is of concern, the FDA determined that the overall benefits of the device outweigh this risk for those who do not benefit from traditional hearing aids. Prospective patients should carefully discuss all benefits and risks of this new device with their physicians. The device is intended for use on one ear only.

The Nucleus Hybrid L24 Cochlear Implant System is manufactured by Cochlear Ltd., headquartered in New South Wales, Australia.

An implantable device is now available for people 18 and older with severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss of high-frequency sounds in both ears, bu...

Tinnitus is a ringing in your ears that never stops

The good news is, there are treatments that may alleviate it

Age-related hearing impairment, injury, foreign objects and even circulatory system problems can bring on a ringing in the ear – a condition known as tinnitus.

Doctors say it isn't a dangerous condition, but it can be very annoying for people who suffer from it. People who have it may also complain of fatigue, stress, sleep problems, anxiety and difficulty concentrating.

You may be at higher risk of developing tinnitus if you are over 65 and male. Also, people exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time and those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have higher rates of tinnitus.

Link between loud noise and tinnitus

In fact, a new study published this month in the medical journal Neuroscience focuses, in part, on loud noise and tinnitus. The researchers from the University of Leicester, in the UK, say their findings help to understand how damage to myelin – a protection sheet around cells - alters the transmission of auditory signals occurring during hearing loss.

"Understanding cellular mechanisms behind hearing loss and tinnitus allows for developing strategies to prevent or alleviate the symptoms of deafness or tinnitus - for example by using specific drug therapies,” said Dr. Martine Hamann, a member of the research team.

If you suffer from tinnitus there are steps you can take to alleviate it. The condition tends to improve with treatment, or treatment of the underlying condition, if it can be identified.

For example, some blood vessel disorders can cause tinnitus. So can head and neck tumors, the build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels and high blood pressure.

Symptoms

How do you know that ringing in your ears is tinnitus? The symptoms have been described as hearing sounds when no sound is present. The ringing may not actually be ringing at all, but more of a buzzing, hissing of squealing. They may be low or high frequency sounds and interfere with your ability to concentrate.

If you think you are suffering from tinnitus you should tell your doctor. She may request a medical history, conduct an exam or run a series of tests. For starters, a doctor will likely check the ear itself, to make sure there isn't a build-up of wax or a foreign object lodged there.

Tell your doctor whether the noise you hear is constant or comes and goes. Does its frequency change or does it rise and fall? If you suspect that you have age-related hearing loss, inform your doctor, since the two conditions are often related.

The doctor may order an audiogram, which is a hearing test, or auditory brain stem response (ABR), or even an MRI. The purpose is not only to locate the cause but to rule out the presence of tumors.

Treatment

Treatment, of course, will depend on the cause. A physician may remove earwax, treat blood vessel conditions or changing medication. Unless an underlying cause can be identified, treatment options are limited.

Drugs will not reverse the condition but tricyclic antidepressants, alprazolam, and acamprosate may make the symptoms more tolerable Your physician may also suggest white noise machines, hearing aids and masking devices.

It's possible you are making the condition worse by the overuse of cotton swabs to clean your ears. Doctors say pushing ear wax against the ear drum is a significant cause of the condition.

Another is long-term exposure to loud noise. Aging Baby Boomers who are rock concert veterans may suffer tinnitus, along with hearing loss. While it might be a bit late for them, younger generations may improve their chances of avoiding tinnitus by using ear plugs when exposed to loud noise.

Age-related hearing impairment, injury, foreign objects and even circulatory system problems can bring on a ringing in the ear – a condition known as...

New Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are coming

How will they measure up to the original model?

It's been five years since Dr. Dre released his Beats by Dr. Dre studio headphones.

Along with Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, Dre's headphones have been quite the hit, and in case you didn't notice, just look around.

From city to city and burb to burb, you'll see the young, the old, the music lover and the occasional music listener, all walking around with headphones that have that lower case "B" on it. And come this August, you'll probably see even more folks walking around with them.

New and improved

Beats Electronics, the company behind the headphones, just announced it will release a new and improved version next month.

And Iovine says the company has taken the original model and made it much better by increasing the level of accuracy and balance.

"With the original Studio headphone we set out to prove that people all around the world care enough about sound to invest in it, and we did," said Iovine. "Now we are taking it a step further. The new Studio is tuned with balance, accuracy and emotion, has a breathtaking design and truly innovative technology. This is the sound of the future."

And what will that futuristic sound entail?

The company says the new headphones will come with new custom-made digital software called Beats Acoustic Engine, which is supposed to provide the ultimate balance in each pair.

Pricey 'phones

Now are we telling you to run out and purchase these headphones?

Absolutely not, because with a starting price of $300, it would be presumptuous of us to think most consumers would pay this kind of money for a pair of headphones. But we do like to introduce products that have a level of coolness and a history of success, and Dre's headphones and his other products certainly fit that bill.

And besides the accompanying software, the headphones will come with adaptive noise cancellation, which will give users the ability to switch between two different sound modes.

Plus, the amount of noise cancellation will automatically adjust depending on where you're using the headphones. And when they're unplugged, the noise cancellation will kick up a notch, the company says.

You won't have to purchase batteries anymore either.

The new Studio headphones will come with a rechargeable battery instead of the AAA batteries needed before, and the company says you'll be able to get 20 hours of listening time with each new charge.

In addition, the company says the headphones are lighter and the ear cups will be able to fit your ears much better. But if you ask me, there really isn't much difference in appearance between the new version and the original model.

Dre alternatives

If you'd like to get a good pair of headphones for about $100 less, you may want to give the Yamaha EPH-100s a try.

The EPH 100s are the in-the-ear type of headphones, but general Internet reviews say the ear buds provide almost as good a thump as Dre's headphones.

"My Yamaha EPH-100 headphones sound better than these," said Shane Scott Williams, who left a comment after reading another report on Dre's headphones. But I'm not sure how he was able to compare the two since Dre's headphones won't be out for another month.

The "bass isn't fantastic," he added. "They are in-ear, but definitely noticeable and very nice across the mids and highs. For my preference in music, I live [in] my 100s and when I can afford new more expensive headphones, I will probably drop some good money on some Westone 3 on-ears."

When they first launched, the Beats headphones were owned by the company Monster, but as of 2012 Dre and Iovine started their own company -- Beats Electronics -- and since then, they've seemed to improve on the sound quality with each go around.

Dre says that's the game plan, because he wants the listener to experience the music in the exact way it was meant to be listened to.

"Music is my first love," said Dr. Dre. "It's how artists and producers communicate with their fans, but if the sound isn't right then the emotion isn't right and the meaning gets lost in translation."

It's been five years since Dr. Dre released his Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones.Along with Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, Dre's ...

The Sennheiser HD 558 Headphones: Modest Appearance, Great Sound

The Sennheisers deliver precise, accurate sound at all listening levels

Okay, so I've spent more than a week listening to music through the Sennheiser HD 558 headphones, to get a good feel for their overall performance, feel and level of quality.

It's my first time testing out any product from this 60-year old company which makes high-end gear for professionals and what used to be called audiophiles.

Through the years I've tested many, many headphones and I've experienced products that stem from the almost-perfect, to the why-did-they-even-make-these?

 If you've taken notice lately, there's a countless amount of listening devices on the market, and knowing exactly which ones are able to capture sound the correct way can be a wallop of a task.

Consumers face a lot of questions: Is it better to get the ear-bud kind that stick in your ear, and feel more like swim plugs rather than listening tools?  Or maybe the over-the-ear variety that cup the side of your head and make you look like a serious music listener? The choices go on and on.

And once you decide what type headphones you want, there are still things to consider like design, comfort and, of course, price.

Big ears

The first thing I noticed about the Sennheiser HD 558 is the sheer size of the ear-cups. Not only the outside part of the cups, because many brands make them big, but the inside section, where you actually place your ears, was huge.

When I put on the Sennheisers, the large holes on the inside of the cups completely went over my entire ear. Many over-the-head style phones have only a small speaker that sits by the ear, and the rest of the cup is filled with foam and padding, which can definitely affect the output of sound.

Since my ear was completely surrounded by the cup, and in direct path of the speakers, I figured I was either in for a really wonderful or a really troubling listening experience. 

To get an idea of the headphones day-to-day feel, I simply walked around the downtown section of my city for a few days in a row, and played song after song trying to gauge not only its level of performance, but its overall feel and ability to block out surrounding sounds.

But I still didn't want to feel like I was being held prisoner by the music, as some large headphones can just be too overpowering.

Additionally, I wanted to see if the headphones had the right amount of loudness and clarity balance, and if they really needed to be on full volume to reach full performance. Unfortunately, a lot of headphones are made like that.

Earlier in the summer ConsumerAffairs tested four of today's popular headphones. In that test, I found three of the four headphones to be pretty darn good, so my ears have been a little bit spoiled when it comes to a quality sound and a fresh design.

Modest demeanor

First off, how do the Sennheisers look?

For some that may not be a relevant question, since performance is the main thing consumers look for in a headphone, but the business of making listening devices with a slick, colorful and unique appearance, makes them seem more fun.

And who doesn't like to have fun, or like to be a little different than the music listener in the subway seat next to you?

The HD558 is offered in basic black, and a tan version with brown trim. I tested the black ones, which fall between a basic design and a slightly futuristic look.

The outside oval ear-cups are made of a sturdy lightweight plastic kind of material, and the insides of the ear piece and headband are made with a thick padding.

Among today's flashy headphones, it seems as if Sennheiser purposely used a level of restraint in the design, and consciously avoided an appearance that looked too over-the-top or child-like.

Because I do love a unique and almost strange-looking headphone, the HD558's modest design didn't wow, but it also didn't disappoint. In a world of headphones that exist between the bland and the uncommon, the Sennheisers comfortably sits somewhere in the middle.

 As far as the overall feel of the headphones, I must say they were a little less comfortable than I thought they would be, especially since the padding looks so plush.

The large holes that surround your ear took a couple of days for me to get used to, since the padding actually misses the ear entirely, and rather softens the area from the top of your ear to the top of your jaw line.

Of course, the comfort level may differ between people of various ear sizes, and head sizes for that matter. But again, after two days I was able to get used to the headphones' different feel.

Thrown for a loop

The main reason I was able to adjust so quickly, is that the sound of the Sennheisers was quite unique, and initially they threw me for a listening loop.

Many headphones, whether high-end or inexpensive, either have one of two functions. They're either loud and full of bass, which is good for certain types of music, or they're made for quieter sounds and tend to focus more on precision.

The bad thing is the powerful and loud headphones can easily distort sound and provide inaccurate frequencies which can be annoying and even painful to the ear.

And the headphones with a lower fidelity can sometimes distribute insufficient bass, or merely capture the obvious parts of a note or melody and not its subtleties.

But the folks at Sennheiser were able to make a pair of headphones that had the right amount of muscle, and the correct level of daintiness, which allowed the listening device to provide a very detailed sound with a nice punch, which is what you want in a headphone.

 A good way to test a pair of phones, or any type of speaker for that matter, is to listen to it at a very low level. That way you can see how much of the song's chords and harmonies can actually be picked up.

Very precise

After putting my musical device on low volume, the Sennheisers still allowed me to pick up every lyric of the artist, and did a great job of enhancing the songs' background instruments and subtle elements.

Many producers and engineers put these smaller sounds into a track just for the ardent listener, but many times the sounds are missed because the headphones don't provide sufficient detail.

I even took the headphones off and placed them around my neck, and I was still able to capture each part of the song at a moderate volume level, and that's pretty rare.

 When I put the ear cups back on, and cranked up the volume a bit, the headphones didn't lose any detail. Also, there was no distortion, and the HD558s were able to maintain their crisp clarity, while still giving me the proper amount of bass thump that I enjoy.

And during my walk around the noisy downtown part of my area, I wasn't interrupted by the loud traffic, the chatty pedestrians, or the boisterous teenagers that dwell in the neighborhood.

But at the same time, the output was so clear, that I wasn't drowned by the sound and I was still able to be aware of my surroundings, which is needed when crossing a busy intersection.

I also tried the headphones on my television and computer for a while, and they worked in the same unique way. Obviously, you use your headphones a bit differently indoors than you do outdoors, so extreme volume isn't really needed.

In fact, you need a pair of headphones that will provide you with a strong listening experience when you're indoors without bleeding sound. That way others in the room don't hear everything that you're hearing.

If you’re listening to a song on your headphones and the person you're next to is mouthing the words, you know the headphones are pretty bad. Fortunately, this is not the case with the Sennheisers.

At a very low level, the headphones provided me with all the sound I needed, but  didn't disturb the other person in the room with me. They also picked up sounds and background music in the TV shows that I watched quite nicely. I was surprised.

The Sennheiser HD 558s are seemingly a cross between Bose headphones and the Beats by Dre model.

Precise, affordable sound

The Bose is known for detailed sound and precise clarity, and the Dre headphones are all about power and bass strength. The HD 558s provided both.

Also, the Bose Audio over the ear headphones are $149.99, and the Beats by Dre phones are $299.

The Sennheiser HD 558s go for $179.95, so for about a $30 price difference from the Bose, you can get the best of both listening worlds, although Dre's headphones are a bit more bassy -- which is OK for certain types of music but may be a turn-off for musical purists.

The design of the headphones isn't outstanding, and if you're looking for a little more pop, you may want to choose the tan and brown version, since they're a bit more visually appealing.

But for performance, these headphones are right on the money, and if you really care about high sound quality, as opposed to just getting something you can plug into your mobile device, the Sennheisers are a good buy and worth the price tag.

In terms of how durable they are, I've just had them over a week, so that part of the test remains to be seen, but so far so good.

The Sennheiser HD 558s are definitely one of the better headphones that you'll find on the market and, like a Volkswagen, deliver outstanding German engineering at a reasonable price. 

After a week-long test run, the results are in and ready to be shared...

Listen Up! We Test Four Top Headphones

Our Daryl Nelson tunes in, rocks out and writes up the results

Beats by Dre

Since there are a countless number of portable devices for music listening, there's also a countless number of headphones. Whether the white flimsy kind that accompanies the iPod, or the over-the-ear bulky variety, there's no shortage of selections.

Of course headphones are easily distinguishable by their design, but unless you listen to different models side by side, it's hard to tell which ones sound the best.

So instead of listening to a particular headphone and assessing its quality of sound, I compared some of the most popular ones on the market today, in a side by side, beat for beat, note for note sound comparison.

First up are the Beats by Dre Headphones made by Monster. There are a few different models of these headphones. The one I checked out was the "Beat Mixer Over-The-Ear" model for $299.

There's been a lot of hype about these headphones, and ConsumerAffairs previously did a quick review, but this was the first time these headphones were compared directly against the competition.

I was reminded of how powerful these headphones are, and how much they're specifically designed for bass-heavy music. With bass sound you usually either get power or clarity, but Beats By Dre gives you both... loud bass, but with crispness and accuracy. No muffled bass sound here.

Within seconds of listening to a Rap tune, I was completely enveloped by the fullness and attention-grabbing-nature of the Beats by Dre headphones.

As far as the design, nothing special, but that might be a good thing. If you're looking for more musical wallop than fancy design, these headphones are just right for you.

Dre's headphones do have a somewhat futuristic look and appeal to them, and the soft leather felt quite light and comfortable around my ear, but as far as sound, they're extremely high quality.

Bose Audio

Next up was the Bose Audio Headphones for 149.99, which also sounded pretty darn good. If not known for anything else, Bose is widely known for its sound clarity, and that reputation is very well deserved.

Compared to Beats by Dre, the Bose headphones scored high in the sound test, but just average on picking up and properly distributing bass sounds. But that's kind of Bose's claim to fame. The company provides a smooth clean sound that picks up the high parts of a melody, as opposed to only picking up its bottom foundation.

If Beats by Dre are ideal for listening to Rap or Rock Music, the Bose Oe2 are perfect for Jazz, Classical, or Ambient music.

The kind of music you listen to most should directly affect the type of headphones you buy.

Roc Nation

Roc Nation Aviator

I then tried out the Roc Nation Aviator Headphones, made by Skullcandy, that cost $149.99. The first thing I noticed was how gorgeous these headphones were. They should really be called eye candy rather than Skullcandy.

The headphones I tested were brown and gold with see through ear pieces and brown soft leather ear-cups. The head band was made of soft leather on the outside and a suede or rawhide material on the inside. And the sound?

On my phone, I brought up a song by the Doors to test out the Aviators. I can never get enough of Mr. Morrison so I was hoping the Skullcandys would do his haunting voice some justice. They really didn't though.

The sonic output was just okay, nothing spectacular, nothing horrible. It shot out mediocre amounts of sound quality, and didn't really separate each instrument by highs, lows, or mid-range. The Doors' classic tune "Crystal Ships" seemed to be at all one level, which really took away from the song.

Those who like some flash in their headphone design will love the Aviators, but consumers will give up a bit of high quality sound for prettiness.

Another thing I didn't care for in the Aviators was the cord attached to the headphones. Instead of a thick strong wire that plugs into your device, the Skullcandys uses a flimsy string.  If you're using these headphones in the rain, the cord will more than likely get wet. Then you'll have to plug a soggy cord into your device.

Soul 

SOUL

The last headset I checked out was Soul, which is designed by Atlanta rapper Ludacris. If you know anything about Ludacris and his music, you know his songs are filled with in your face beats, coupled with a strong and clear vocal delivery.

Well, his headphones sound just like that. Somehow Luda was able to design a pair of headphones that sort of mimic his style.

Similar to the Beats by Dre headphones, Soul sucks you in upon first listen, and clearly picks up each individual level of sound. At $199.99 the headphones are not a bad buy, considering there are other brands for the same price that don't deliver the same quality of sound.

As far as the design, the headphones are pretty straightforward. They have large earcups and a headband that's made of a fiberglass type of material. They also feel very comfortable and light, and have an overall look that’s very similar to Dr. Dre's headphones.

The winner

Out of the four tested, which headphones were the best?

By far, Beats by Dre won for its quality of sound. The legendary Los Angeles producer says he made the headphones so consumers can hear the music just like it sounds in the studio when the music is being made.

Producers spend hours and hours, sometimes days, tweaking a snare drum sound for example, or adjusting a guitar lick to get it at just the right level in relation to the rest of the instruments.

It sounds like Dre's headphones accomplished this feat, as each individual sound seemed to come through quite loud and clear.

The runner up was Soul by Ludacris. The headphones were just a couple of notches under Beats by Dre in terms of sound quality, but didn't capture the music's fullness in the same way.

The headphones are $100 less than Dre's, and you can actually hear that $100 difference in the sound. But if you don't want to spend nearly $300 for the Dre headphones, Soul by Ludacris is certainly worth the $199.99 price tag.

The Bose Oe2s were third on the rating chart, but could also be first depending on the type of music you typically listen to. It seems as if the Bose company made the headphones for an older audience who may not choose Rock, Rap, or Dance music as their first musical choice.

Bose's headphones are ideal for those who prefer a quieter brand of music.

Last on the list were the Aviators. Although they scored the highest in the best design category, the sound quality didn't match the headphones' slick design. The music didn't sound terrible or distorted, but all of the sounds seemed to mesh together. You can get the same listening results with much cheaper priced headphones.

So the next time you shop for a pair of headphones do an extended side by side listening test. Also, plug the headphones into your own device, as opposed to using the ones on the display wall that will play only one song.

That way you can decide if the headphones you're getting will suit you and your particular brand of music.

Since there are a countless number of portable devices for music listening, there's also a countless number of headphones. Whether it's the white flimsy ki...

Study: Rock Concerts Taking Toll On Teen Hearing

Study shows just one concert can result in hearing loss

Baby boomers are increasingly in need of hearing aids and their children and grandchildren may not be far behind, especially if they attend a lot of concerts, just as boomers did in their youth.

A study that tested teens' hearing before and after attending a rock concert found that 72 percent of them experienced some hearing loss.

The concert used for the test featured a popular female vocalist, not a heavy metal rock band normally associated with deafening decibels. The hearing loss was expected to be temporary but physicians such as Dr. M. Jennifer Derebery, lead author and a doctor at the House Clinic, are worried about the cumulative effect.

Single exposure

“Teenagers need to understand a single exposure to loud noise either from a concert or personal listening device can lead to hearing loss,” she said. “With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.”

Before the concerts the teenagers got a lecture on the importance of wearing ear protection but only three of the teens opted to use the offered ear plugs.

Three adult researchers sat with the teenagers. Using a calibrated sound pressure meter, 1,645 measurements of sound decibel (dBA) levels were recorded during the 26 songs played during the three hour concert. The sound levels ranged from 82-110 dBA, with an average of 98.5 dBA. The mean level was greater than 100 dBA for 10 of the 26 songs.

Violated OSHA standards

The decibel levels experienced at the concert exceeded what is allowable in the workplace, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA safe listening guidelines set time limits for exposures to sound levels of 85 dB and greater in the workplace.

The volumes recorded during the concert would have violated OSHA standards in less than 30 minutes. In fact, one third of the teen listeners showed a temporary threshold shift that would not be acceptable in adult workplace environments, Derebery said.

Following the concert, 53.6 percent of the teens said they did not think they were hearing as well after the concert. Twenty-five percent reported they were experiencing tinnitus or ringing in their ears, which they did not have before the concert.

More teens with hearing loss

Derebery and other researchers are especially concerned because in the most recent government survey on health in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006, 20 percent of adolescents were found to have at least slight hearing loss, a 31 percent increase from a similar survey done from 1988-1994.

Other research has raised concerns about personal music players with earbud speakers, which are often used by very young children.

To Derebery, the findings serve as a wake-up call and should lead to more research.

 “It also means we definitely need to be doing more to ensure the sound levels at concerts are not so loud as to cause hearing loss and neurological damage in teenagers, as well as adults,” said Derebery. “Only three of our 29 teens chose to use ear protection, even when it was given to them and they were encouraged to do so. We have to assume this is typical behavior for most teen listeners, so we have the responsibility to get the sound levels down to safer levels.”

Baby boomers are increasingly in need of hearing aids and their children and grand-children may not be far behind, especially if they attend a lot of conce...

Welcome to the Latest by Dr Dre: The New MIXR Headphones

Lightweight and with a sponge-like headband, you hardly know they're there

Who hasn't purchased a Dr. Dre song in the last 20 years? Or turned up the volume in their car to one of his laid-back West Coast beats that's been a signature of the California producer since the early 90s? At the very least you've bopped your head to one of his tunes even if you didn't realize it.

In recent years the NWA alumni has been more of a business mogul than a Hip-Hop producer, and his latest creation of headphones called Beats by Dr. Dre have been all the rave among music aficionados, and his latest released pair attempts to improve upon an already great product.

This brings us to the new MIXR headphones by DJ David Guetta, the French house music producer and DJ who has been a mainstay on the Top 40 charts since 2009. Although primarily designed for DJ's, anyone will find these headphones quite stellar, even if they're not spinning a musical set for a roomful of partygoers.

What's most noticeable is the shrunken size of the headphones, which are unlike the bulkier ear-swallowing earlier editions. Guetta designed these headphones under the company Monster -- of Monster cable fame -- which partnered with Dr. Dre to change the way headphones look and sound.

Although their appearance is a bit sleeker, the high quality headphones do not lose any of the strong bass and crystal clear sound that Beats by Dr. Dre have been synonymous with. With a lightweight and sponge-like headband, one wouldn't know they're wearing them if it weren't for the blaring tunes shooting out of them. As with any headphones they may have to be broken in first, as they feel a bit stiff right out of the package.

Smooth rotation

A unique feature of the DJ-inspired headphones is their ability to rotate off your ear, which allows you to also hear outside sounds while wearing the headphones, as this is a necessary thing for DJ's who tend to spin and play multiple records simultaneously. Although other headphones have this same feature, the MIXR rotates in a much smoother and more comfortable fashion.

The design of the headphones is pretty unique too, as they appear in colors a bit more muted than the bold coloring of Monster's other headphones. Also, their flexibility allows one to feel like the headphones are a tool for casual enjoyment and not a serious piece of studio equipment that will break upon first drop.

Although the headphones don't match the clarity of Bose headphones, or the visual fanciness of  Skullcandy's headphones, they'll still produce a non-muffled and clear bass sound upon each use.

As many designer headphones go for $500 plus, it's refreshing to see the MIXR listed at $249.99. Still an exorbitant price for those who just want to listen to their audio in private, but reasonable for those who reside in the world of high-end music equipment.

Who hasn't purchased a Dr. Dre song in the last 20 years? Or turned up the volume in their car to one of his laid back West Coast beats that's been a signa...

Koss Introduces Wireless Wi-Fi Headphones

The mouse and keyboard are wireless; why not the headphones?

Wireless headphones fall under that weird category of products that are seemingly oxymoronic, like fried ice cream or the waterless car wash (yes, there is such a thing).

But now Koss, which has been in the headphone business since the 1950’s, says it has created the first headphone that pulls music directly from the Internet, without any cords or wires.

“People have complained constantly about wires. We’ve always wanted to get rid of wires.  We’ve been trying to get rid of wires since the 70’s,” said Michael Koss, president and chief executive officer of Koss, who took over the company from his father John C. Koss in 1991.

Named the Koss Striva, the new headphones contains a Wi-Fi component where one can stream music directly to the headphones, by accessing online radio stations by way of Koss’ MyKoss online portal.  Various radio stations can be searched for by a control located on the side of the headphones.  Customers can choose the in-ear version called the Stiva Tap, or the over-the-ear version named the Striva-Pro.

Wired or wireless

The Koss Striva allows you to stream music and other audio content directly from the internet, assuming there is a Wi-Fi signal available within a 300 foot range.  They can also be used as standard headphones, as they do come with an audio cable for those who are a bit freaked out by the wireless component and prefer things a bit more traditional.

The Striva is ideal for those who park themselves in coffee shops or plan to be stationary while listening to headphones.  A bigger challenge will be for those who typically use their headphones on the go, as different Wi-Fi signals will have to be accessed, which may give you an inconsistent amount of headphone play.

In addition, the revolutionary headphones comes with revolutionary costs at $500 a pair on the Koss website, which will probably scare away casual music listeners, and entice those who are serious about their sounds.

These new headphones have brought about some needed positive news, as Koss Corporation received some unwanted press back in December of 2009, when former vice president of finance Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva was accused in federal court of wire fraud, and embezzling $4.5 million from the company.

In a recent statement given to the press concerning the Striva, Micheal Koss spoke about the long journey his company has traveled since his parents started the business six decades ago.  

“60 years ago this month, my father and mother received $200 as a wedding gift from my grandparents to buy a living room set.  Instead my father convinced my mother to start a business with it.  Here we are 60 years later and we’re starting another revolution,” he said.




Wireless headphones fall under that weird category of products that are seemingly oxymoronic, like fried ice cream or the waterless car wash (yes, there is...

Researchers Raise Ear Bud Safety Concerns

The popular earphones may be a safety hazard, researchers warn

In the 1960s, young people walked around with a transistor radio next to their ear. In the 1970s it was a boom-box on their shoulder. In the 80s, it was a Walkman on their belt with featherweight earphones.

While any prolonged, loud sounds in close proximity to your ears can be harmful, today's “ear buds,” the mini-earphones that connect media players and smartphones directly to your ear canals, are a growing cause of concern.

According to a Vanderbilt University-led study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss is now affecting 20 percent of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 19, which is a five percent increase over the past 15 years. Are ear buds to blame?

A separate study by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association found that teenagers typically listen to devices at a louder volume than adults, and that these same teenagers already have symptoms of hearing loss.

Kristina Rigsby, Au.D., a pediatric audiologist at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, says listening to devices with levels over 80 dB for extended periods of time may be dangerous.

The danger

Prolonged exposure to high volume exhausts the auditory system, she explains. Over time, the hair cells in the ear start to degenerate because they aren’t receiving proper blood flow and oxygen.

“When you are listening to these devices at high levels and for long periods of time, you are putting yourself at risk for hearing loss,” Rigsby said. “Hearing loss is permanent, so once you’ve done the damage, there’s no getting it back.”

How loud is too loud? If parents can hear sound coming from their child’s headphones while they are wearing them, it’s too loud, Rigsby said. A good rule of thumb is the “60/60 rule,” which means using only 60 percent of the device’s volume level for no more than 60 minutes at a time. After 60 minutes, give your ears a break for at least an hour, she said.

Courts have heard enough

Those who ignore the warnings and wind up damaging their hearing shouldn't expect too much sympathy from the legal system. A federal appeals court in 2010 unanimously tossed a class action alleging that Apple failed to warn consumers that using iPod earbud-style headphones at full volume can lead to hearing loss. The 3-0 ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's 2008 decision to dismiss the case.

The suit, filed by lead plaintiffs Joseph Birdsong and Bruce Waggoner in 2006, alleged that iPods' maximum volume of 115 decibels, equivalent to a helicopter taking off, puts users in danger of permanent hearing loss. Further, the plaintiffs said that Apple's signature earbuds the white-and-silver headphones that fit snugly inside users' ears provide less protection against hearing loss than traditional headphones.

In June 2008, Judge James Ware of the Northern District of California dismissed the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to prove that they had suffered any actual harm as a result of the headphones' alleged defect. The Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling, with judge David Thompson writing that the suit suggest[s] only that users have the option of using an iPod in a risky manner, not that the headphones were inherently defective.

While Apple does alert consumers that continually playing music at a high volume can lead to hearing problems, the plaintiffs contended that this warning was too vague. They said that Apple had a responsibility to tell consumers the maximum safe decibel level, and to sell iPods with a device telling users how loud their music is at any given moment.

What to do

Rather than using ear buds, consider investing in high-quality, “noise cancelling” headphones that cover the entire ear. Ear buds allow more background noise to seep in, so users often turn up the volume to compensate.

But before you go for a stroll with your new noise-cancelling headphones, it might pay to listen to warnings from researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who say distracted walking is becoming as dangerous as distracted driving.

With the proliferation of iPods and smartphones than can access music services, pedestrians often walk listening to loud music, and therefore can't hear trains, buses, trucks and cars around them.

Serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have more than tripled in six years, according to their research. In many cases, the cars or trains are sounding horns that the pedestrians cannot hear, leading to fatalities in nearly three-quarters of cases.

“Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears,” said lead author Richard Lichenstein, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases.”

The researchers looked at 116 accident cases from 2004 to 2011 in which injured pedestrians were found to be using headphones. Seventy percent of the 116 accidents resulted in death to the pedestrian.

Researchers Raise Ear Bud Safety Concerns...

Teens May Be Damaging Hearing With Personal Music Players

One in four teens at risk, study says

If your child got an iPod or MP3 player for Christmas, it might be a good idea to supervise its use and volume. According to new Tel Aviv University research, advances in audio reproduction have turned personal listening devices into a serious health hazard, with teenagers as the most at-risk group.

The researchers contend that one in four teens is in danger of early hearing loss as a direct result of these listening habits. Their results, published in the International Journal of Audiology, demonstrate clearly that teens have harmful music-listening habits when it comes to iPods and other MP3 devices.

Too late

"In 10 or 20 years it will be too late to realize that an entire generation of young people is suffering from hearing problems much earlier than expected from natural aging," said Prof. Chava Muchnik, a leader of the research team.

Hearing loss caused by continuous exposure to loud noise is a slow and progressive process. People may not notice the harm they are causing until years of accumulated damage begin to take hold, the researchers warn.

While today's Baby Boomers are beginning to feel the effects of rock concerts and headphone use, those who are misusing MP3 players today might find that their hearing begins to deteriorate as early as their 30's and 40's — much earlier than past generations.

80 percent of teens use them

Today's problem may be worse, since the researchers found 80 percent of teens use a personal music player regularly, with 21 percent listening from one to four hours daily, and eight percent listening more than four hours consecutively. Taken together with the acoustic measurement results, the data indicate that a quarter of the participants are at severe risk for hearing loss, the study warns.

The increased use of smartphones has increased the number of young people listening to music using earbuds. They are now able to download music directly to their devices or listen to online music services, such as Pandora.

Solutions

Currently, industry-related health and safety regulations are the only benchmark for measuring the harm caused by continuous exposure to high volume noise. But is it enough? The research suggests it is not.

The study recommends that manufacturers adopt the European standards that limit the output of PLDs to 100 decibels. Currently, maximum decibel levels on music players can differ from model to model, but some can go up to 129 decibels.

Steps can also be taken by schools and parents, the researchers suggest. Some school boards are developing programs to increase awareness of hearing health, such as the "Dangerous Decibels" program in Oregon schools, which provides early education on the subject. Teens could also choose over-the-ear headphones instead of the ear buds that commonly come with an iPod.

Teens at risk of hearing loss because of music players...

AARP: Many Seniors Suffer Hearing Loss in Silence

Many don't think their problem warrants treatment

You may not always like what you hear but being able to hear is an important part of part of leading an active life.  Yet, a new survey of AARP members finds nearly half say their hearing is getting worse.

The survey, conducted by AARP and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) released today, focuses on the state of hearing among Americans 50-plus.  It examines attitudes toward hearing, the needs and unmet needs that the 50-plus population has for treating hearing issues and knowledge of where to go for help.

“Maintaining hearing health as one ages is a very important concern among our members,” said AARP Vice President Nicole Duritz.  “While the survey results indicate that older Americans recognize the impact hearing difficulties can have on relationships with family and friends, people are also going without treatment, which can negatively impact quality of life and lead to safety issues.”

Key findings

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 85 percent of members surveyed said that maintaining hearing health is of great importance to them personally.  And 70 percent of respondents who said their hearing is excellent also said that they feel younger than their actual age.
  • Over a five-year period, nearly half (46 percent) of members surveyed say their hearing is getting worse.  And the same percentage (47 percent) reported having untreated hearing health issues.
  • During that same period in time, the vast majority of members surveyed reported either having a vision test or blood pressure monitoring (88 and 85 percent, respectively).  In comparison, 43 percent of respondents reported having had a hearing test conducted.
  • More than half (61 percent) of member respondents indicate that hearing difficulties make it hard to follow conversations in noisy situations.  And members point to the impact hearing difficulties can have on relationships with friends and family (44 percent) or during family gatherings (43 percent).
  • A majority (57 percent) of member respondents with untreated hearing difficulties don’t believe their problems warrant treatment.
  • Nearly two-thirds of poll respondents (63 percent) cite health insurance coverage limitations, concerns about cost, and lack of health insurance as reasons for not getting treatment for hearing difficulties.

Taken lightly 

"Untreated hearing loss is not a condition to be taken lightly or ignored," according to Paul R. Rao, PhD, President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. "It can lead to social isolation and even depression. And it works against the desire of more and more Americans to stay in the work force. We sincerely hope that one result of our polling with AARP will be that people seek treatment."

The survey also found that more people will seek help for hearing issues if their issue is linked to their relationships.  Nearly 70 percent would seek treatment if they felt their hearing issues were affecting their relationships with family and friends.  Nearly as many would do so if someone they cared about asked them to seek treatment.

You may not always like what you hear but being able to hear is an important part of part of leading an active life.  Yet, a new survey of AARP member...

Study: 20 Percent of Americans Have Hearing Loss

Researchers say problem more widespread than they thought

Aging Baby Boomers have noticed it. As you get older, your hearing isn't what it once was. Turns out they aren't alone.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have concluded that nearly a fifth of all Americans 12 years or older have hearing loss so severe that it may make it hard to communicate.

Study leader Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins, says that several previous estimates of hearing loss focused on various cities or populations, such as children or elderly patients. However, no estimate successfully encompassed the entire U.S.

“I couldn’t find a simple number of how common hearing loss is in the U.S.,” Lin said. “So, we decided to develop our own.”

Lin and his colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES), a research program that has periodically gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971. The researchers analyzed data from all participants age 12 and over whose hearing was tested during NHANES examinations from 2001 to 2008. Unlike previous estimates, NHANES includes men and women of all races and ages, from cities scattered across the country, so it’s thought to statistically mimic the population of the U.S.

Hearing threshold

The study used the World Health Organization’s definition for hearing loss - not being able to hear sounds of 25 decibels or less in the speech frequencies. The researchers found that overall, about 30 million Americans, or 12.7 percent of the population, had hearing loss in both ears.

That number jumps to about 48 million, or 20.3 percent, for people who have hearing loss in at least one ear. These numbers far surpass previous estimates of 21 to 29 million.

Hearing loss prevalence nearly doubled with every age decade, with women and blacks being significantly less likely to have hearing loss at any age. Lin and his colleagues aren’t sure why these groups appear to be protected. However, he notes that the female hormone estrogen, as well as the melanin pigment in darker skin, could have a protective effect on the inner ear—topics they plan to research in future studies.

In the meantime, Lin says, the new numbers greatly inform the work he and other researchers are doing on hearing loss and its consequences, which, according to previous studies, include cognitive decline, dementia, and poor physical functioning.

“This gives us the real scope of the problem for the first time and shows us how big of a problem hearing loss really is,” Lin said.

The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

About 20 percent of Americans are affected by hearing loss...

Sounds Of Summer Can Be A Danger To Hearing

Hearing specialist offers some advice

As seasons go, summer is probably the noisiest. And that can take a toll on your hearing.

“Fireworks, trains, concerts and road construction can be harmful to your hearing. And once hearing is damaged, it cannot be repaired,” said Jyoti Bhayani, certified audiologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System.

One in 10 Americans has hearing loss that affects the ability to understand normal speech. Aging is the most common cause of this condition. However, exposure to excessive noise also can damage hearing in higher pitches.

“Hearing loss due to excessive noise is totally preventable, unlike old age or a medical condition,” said Bhayani.

Safe decibel levels

Sound is measured in decibel (db) levels. A soft whisper is only 30 db. Normal conversation, or fingers typing on a computer keyboard are about 60 db.

Prolonged exposure to sound levels above 85 db usually call for earplugs. That means wearing ear protection when mowing the lawn, using a chain saw or attending a rock concert.

“It is important to know the intensity of the sounds around you,” said Bhayani, who regularly cares for construction and factory workers, frequent air travelers and seniors in her practice at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. “I recommend using hearing protection devices for those who are exposed to excessive, loud noises and musician’s ear plugs, which simply attenuate the intensity/loudness without altering frequency response.”

Loud noise kills ear nerve endings permanently

Unfortunately, when nerve endings in the ear die, they don't come back – and loud noise will kill them. Three small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear where they become nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sound.

“When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the hair cells and nerve endings in the inner ear,” Bhayani said. “The louder a noise, the longer the exposure, and the closer you are to the noise source, the more damaging it is to your nerve endings, or your hearing.” As the number of nerve endings decreases due to damage, so does your hearing. Nerve endings cannot be healed or regenerated and the damage is permanent.

Ear bud warning

If you have a smartphone or iPod, you may use ear bud headphones that are inserted into the ear. Use of ear bud headphones by youngsters may save your ears from being assaulted by the noise of your teenagers’ music or electronic game, but they may be damaging your child’s hearing.

“Three in five Americans, especially youth, are prone to develop hearing loss due to loud music being delivered via ear buds,” Bhayani said. “Sound that is too loud, especially close to the ear, is harmful. “The truth about hearing is loud and painful – once a nerve is damaged, it cannot be restored. It is gone forever.”

The noises of summer can take a toll on your hearing...

Court Has Heard Enough in iPod Earbud Suit

Appeals court affirms 2008 dismissal of class action

By Jon Hood
ConsumerAffairs.com


A federal appeals court has unanimously tossed a class action alleging that Apple failed to warn consumers that using iPod earbud-style headphones at full volume can lead to hearing loss. The 3-0 ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's 2008 decision to dismiss the case.

The suit, filed by lead plaintiffs Joseph Birdsong and Bruce Waggoner in 2006, alleged that iPods' maximum volume of 115 decibels, equivalent to a helicopter taking off, puts users in danger of permanent hearing loss. Further, the plaintiffs said that Apple's signature earbuds the white-and-silver headphones that fit snugly inside users' ears provide less protection against hearing loss than traditional headphones.

In June 2008, Judge James Ware of the Northern District of California dismissed the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to prove that they had suffered any actual harm as a result of the headphones' alleged defect. The Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling, with judge David Thompson writing that the suit suggest[s] only that users have the option of using an iPod in a risky manner, not that the headphones were inherently defective.

Judge Thompson also hinted that the issue was not suitable for class treatment, writing that, At most, the plaintiffs plead a potential risk of hearing loss not to themselves, but to other unidentified iPod users.

While Apple does alert consumers that continually playing music at a high volume can lead to hearing problems, the plaintiffs contended that this warning was too vague. They said that Apple had a responsibility to tell consumers the maximum safe decibel level, and to sell iPods with a device telling users how loud their music is at any given moment. Jeff Friedman, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said, It's not a matter of turning your volume up or down. It's a matter of understanding when you're in jeopardy.

Software compatible with late-model iPods allows users to set a maximum volume limit to prevent decibels from going beyond a certain level. According to Apple's website, the feature works with any headphones attached to the headphone jack and allows users to assign a combination to prevent the setting from being changed which is ideal for parental control.

The European Union recently enacted a uniform volume limit on all MP3 players, including iPods. The proposal, expected to take hold in the spring, sets a default maximum of 85 decibels, with an override option allowing users to increase the level to 100 decibels. Friedman has voiced support for similar legislation in the United States.



Court Has Heard Enough in iPod Earbud Suit...

Campaign Launched to Protect Tweens' Hearing

Promotes awareness on exposure to noise sources that harm youth

October 3, 2008
Hearing loss is a fact of life in old age, cut there are growing concerns that people will begin losing their hearing at a young age. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has launched a new campaign to help parents teach their 8- to 12-year-olds how to avoid hearing loss from overexposure to loud noise.

The new campaign, called It's a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing, features a new Web site that offers advice to parents on the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, how to recognize when a child's hearing is at risk, and ways to reduce noise exposure.

The site contains games, posters, and interactive information about noise and hearing loss tailored specifically for tweens.

"Noise is everywhere, and children and adults alike are at risk for hearing loss from overexposure," said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIDCD. "Our goal through this campaign is to increase awareness among parents and children so that it will become second nature to use protective hearing techniques when they're exposed to loud noise, just like it's become second nature for many people to wear sunscreen when they're at the beach or to snap on a helmet when they go biking."

Children often are exposed to noises that can reach harmful levels and durations. Doing yard work, such as using a power mower, playing a musical instrument, whether it's a violin or electric guitar, or attending a sports event in a large stadium can be the source of too much noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when too much noise damages small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot be repaired. Hair cells can be injured instantly by an intense blast of noise, such as the bang of a firecracker, or gradually from repeated exposure to excessive noise.

Overexposure to noise also may cause tinnitus, a ringing, roaring, or clicking sound in the ear. Research also suggests that genetics may play a role in increasing a person's vulnerability to noise-induced hearing loss.

The campaign targets tweens because they are at an age when they are no longer little children, and are beginning to develop a sense of who they are and what they like to do. Reaching them at this age, while they're forming attitudes and habits related to their health, will help them understand that healthy hearing habits will benefit them for a lifetime.

• The Noisy Planet campaign advocates three ways to prevent NIHL:

• Block the noise by wearing earplugs or protective earmuffs, like those used by airport or lawn service workers.

• Avoid the noise by walking away or limiting time spent in noisy environments.

Turn down the sound on the growing number of tools, toys, and gadgets that add to the increasing noise level of daily life.



Campaign Launched to Protect Tweens' Hearing...

Hearing Loss Affects One in Three Over 60

The Healthy Geezer


Q. I'm 67 and have always had very good hearing. Lately, I've noticed that I can't pick up some things my grand-daughter says. Is this significant?

A. About one in three Americans over 60 suffer from loss of hearing, which can range from the inability to hear certain voices to deafness.

There are two basic categories of hearing loss. One is caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is permanent. The second kind occurs when sound can't reach the inner ear. This can be repaired medically or surgically.

Presbycusis, one form of hearing loss, occurs with age. Presbycusis can be caused by changes in the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Some of its causes are aging, loud noise, heredity, head injury, infection, illness, certain prescription drugs, and circulation problems such as high blood pressure. It seems to be inherited.

Tinnitus, also common in older people, is the ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears frequently caused by exposure to loud noise or certain medicines. Tinnitus is a symptom that can come with any type of hearing loss.


Hearing loss can by caused by "ototoxic" medicines that damage the inner ear. Some antibiotics are ototoxic. Aspirin can cause temporary problems. If you're having a hearing problem, ask your doctor about any medications you're taking.

Loud noise contributes to presbycusis and tinnitus. Noise has damaged the hearing of about 10 million Americans, many of them Baby Boomers who listened to hard rock with the volume turned up as far as possible.

Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can get worse. If you have a hearing problem, see your doctor. Hearing aids, special training, medicines and surgery are options.

Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a physician who specializes in problems of the ear. Or you may be referred to an audiologist, a professional who can identify and measure hearing loss. An audiologist can help you determine if you need a hearing aid.

There other "hearing aids" you should consider. There are listening systems to help you enjoy television or radio without being bothered by other sounds around you. Some hearing aids can be plugged directly into TVs, stereos, microphones, and personal FM systems to help you hear better.

Some telephones work with certain hearing aids to make sounds louder and remove background noise. And some auditoriums, movie theaters, and other public places are equipped with special sound systems that send sounds directly to your ears.

Alerts such as doorbells, smoke detectors, and alarm clocks can give you a signal that you can see or a vibration that you can feel. For example, a flashing light can let you know someone is at the door or on the phone.

All Rights Reserved © 2007 by Fred Cicetti



Hearing Loss Affects One in Three Over 60...

How Loud Should Your iPod Be?


How loud should your iPod be? Hearing specialists suggest most iPod users need to dial it back a bit, to prevent hearing loss.

Audiologist Brian Fligor of Boston's Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and colleagues worry that individuals listening to their music amidst noisy surroundings are much more likely to raise the volume to risky levels.

The research team estimates that a typical person could safely listen to the iPod for 4.6 hours at 70 percent of full volume using the supplied earphones without greatly increasing the risk of hearing loss.

However, listening to music at full volume through the iPod for more than 5 minutes per day through its stock earphones, they say, could increase the risk of hearing loss in a typical person. These guidelines apply in general to other music players, such as the Sandisk Sansa and the Creative Zen Micro, which they found to produce similar volume levels.

In a separate study, Fligor, along with Terri Ives, of PCO School of Audiology, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and Cory Portnuff of the University of Colorado observed the listening habits of 100 doctoral students listening to iPods through earphones.

When the students were in a quiet environment, they found that only 6 percent of them turned their players to risky sound levels. When in a noisy environment, a dramatically higher 80% of the students listened to the music at risky levels.

When they used an "in-the-ear" earphone designed to block out background noise, only 20 percent exceeded sound levels considered to be risky. This suggests, Fligor says, that seeking out quiet environments and using "isolator" earphones designed to block out background noise help listeners avoid the tendency to play music at sound levels that can pose risks to their hearing.

"Portable music players are not the only hearing hazard to which kids are exposed," says University of Northern Colorado audiologist Deanna Meinke. "Parents and teachers have to look across exposures for all noisy and loud activities."

Noise-induced hearing loss, she says, can be caused by two types of noise. Sudden bursts, such as firearms and fireworks, can immediately cause hearing loss in children, who are often reluctant to report such exposures to their parents.

The other type is continuous exposure to loud noise, which can damage the ears over time. Sources of continuous noise, she says, including motorized recreational vehicles, loud sporting events, power tools, farming equipment, and amplified music.

For continuous noise exposure such as music, the "level and duration of exposure are important," she says. "It takes repeated exposures over many years to cause a gradual onset of noise-induced hearing loss in both children and adults, Meinke said.

Since people have many possible encounters with loud sounds, she says, it's important to use safe listening strategies when possible; move away from the noise, turn down the volume or wear properly fitting hearing protection.



How Loud Should Your iPod Be?...

Suit Charges iPods Can Damage Hearing


A Louisiana man has filed a lawsuit against Apple Computer, claiming its iPods are too loud and could damage his hearing. The suit seeks class action status but does not seek specific damages.

Lawyers for John Kiel Patterson charge the mp3 players are "inherently defective" in design and do not provide sufficient warning to consumers that the volume could result in hearing loss. The suit says the iPod can produce sounds at more than 115 decibels, which it says can damage hearing if exposed to as little as a half minute per day.

Patterson's suit says he bought an iPod in 2005 but does not make a claim that his hearing has been damaged. His lawyers argue the point of the suit is to dramatize the potential of the iPod to cause permanent damage to millions of consumers who have and who will purchase the product.

Currently the iPod comes with a warning that says "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume." But the suit says the headphones that come with the iPod actually contribute to hearing loss because they do not dilute the sound entering the ear and are closer to the ear canal than other sound sources.

Apple has sold more than 42 million iPods since they went on sale in 2001. The company declined to comment on the suit.

Suit Charges iPods Can Damage Hearing...