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A ‘head and torso’ mannequin, manufactured by acoustic expert Bruel and Kjaer, is helping to highlight the risks that MP3 players pose to hearing.

Hidden Hearing, a hearing healthcare specialist in Ireland and the UK, is running Hearing Awareness Week 2010.

Encouraging all music fans to take care of their hearing, the campaign was supported by Irish singing sensation Julie Feeney, and Dr Mark Hamilton (former presenter of Radio 1’s The Sunday Surgery), who has personal experience of hearing loss, as he has had partial hearing in one ear since his childhood.

Simulating what it would be like to lose hearing, at the high profile launch, Julie Feeney performed behind sound-proof glass so music fans could not hear the performance unless they used the wireless headphones provided.

To highlight the issue of noise-induced hearing loss, research was conducted on behalf of Hidden Hearing that indicated the extent to which people are damaging their hearing.

The survey indicated that more than 50 per cent of MP3 users are listening to their players at dangerously high levels – above 89 decibels (dB) – for up to two hours a day.

Also, 11 per cent of people listening to MP3 players and 35 per cent of people attending concerts said they had experienced ringing in their ears or dull hearing, signalling that damage to their hearing may have begun.

Part of the survey was conducted through on-street, face-to-face surveys.

The participants placed their headphones on a ‘head and torso’ mannequin, manufactured by acoustic expert Bruel and Kjaer.

The mannequin contained an artificial ear and microphone, supplied by noise and vibration specialist Enfonic, which was connected to a sound decibel meter.

The average sound level was recorded by measuring the LAeq (equivalent continuous level) of a 30-second sample of music.

Of the MP3 players tested, 40 per cent reached top sound levels of more than 100dB; listening at this volume can cause damage to hearing after just 30 minutes.

‘As a result of years of listening to personal music devices at very loud volumes, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of people, sometimes as young as 30, suffering from hearing loss that you would expect a person aged over 70 to have,’ said Keith Ross, audiologist with Hidden Hearing.

The European Commission said that it could be commonplace in 2010 to see one in ten 30 year olds wearing a hearing aid as a result of listening to loud personal music players.

Hearing experts recommend a ’60/60 rule’ to protect hearing – which means listening to an MP3 or personal music device through headphones for a maximum of 60 minutes at 60 per cent of the volume.

Bruel and Kjaer

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