Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A cool generation going deaf?

Here is another article, this time in the New Straits Times, on how the iPod generation is damaging their hearing by playing too loud volumes directly into their ears (using earbuds). I've blogged on this subject myself before, but the whole story is not being told - the ear has a self-protection mechanism built in. The stapes (one of the three bones of the middle ear) can actually pull back (decouple) from the cochlea (the inner ear) in response to loud sounds, thereby protecting it from damage. Unfortunately, this protection mechanism degrades as we age, so it functions best when we are young (and stupid). I'm not aware that the degree of protection has been thoroughly mapped against age, but it may be that a late-teenager or young twenty-something can get away with listening to some rock-and-roll at loud volumes but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone older, and that includes aging hippies - that would be just asking for trouble.

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