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To examine the sound level and duration of use of personal listening devices (PLDs) by 189
college students, ages 18-53 years, as they entered a New York City college campus, to
determine whether noise exposure from PLDs was in excess of
recommended exposure limits and what factors might influence exposure. Free-field
equivalent sound levels from PLD headphones were measured on a mannequin with a
calibrated soundlevel meter. Participants reported demographic information, whether they
had just come off the subway, the type of PLD and earphones used, and duration per day
and days per week they used their PLDs. Based on measured free-field equivalent
sound levels from PLD headphones and the reported PLD use, per day 58.2% of participants
exceeded 85 dB A-weighted 8-hr equivalent sound levels (L^sub Aeq^), and per week
51.9% exceeded 85 dB A-weighted 40-hr equivalent continuous sound levels (L^sub
Awkn^). The majority of PLD users exceeded recommended sound exposure limits,
suggesting that they were at increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Analyses of the
demographics of these participants and mode of transportation to campus failed to indicate
any particular gender differences in PLD use or in mode of transportation influencing
sound exposure.


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Headnote
Purpose: To examine the sound level and duration of use of personal listening devices
(PLDs) by 189 college students, ages 18-53 years, as they entered a New York City college
campus, to determine whether noise exposure from PLDs was in excess of
recommended exposure limits and what factors might influenceexposure.
Method: Free-field equivalent sound levels from PLD headphones were measured on a
mannequin with a calibrated sound level meter. Participants reported demographic
information, whether they had just come off the subway, the type of PLD and earphones
used, and duration per day and days per week they used their PLDs.
Results: Based on measured free-field equivalent sound levels from PLD headphones and
the reported PLDuse, per day 58.2% of participants exceeded 85 dB A-weighted 8-hr
equivalent sound levels (L^sub Aeq^), and per week 51.9% exceeded 85 dB A-weighted
40-hr equivalent continuous sound levels (L^sub Awkn^).

Conclusions: The majority of PLD users exceeded recommended sound exposure limits,
suggesting that they were at increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Analyses of the
demographics of these participants and mode of transportation to campus failed to indicate
any particular gender differences in PLD use or in mode of transportation influencing
sound exposure.
KEY WORDS: noise-induced hearing loss, personal listening devices, portable music players,
minimal hearing impairment, social factors
(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)
In the present study, we examined the sound levels of personal listening devices (PLDs;
e.g., CDs, iPods, and MP3 players), also referred to as portable music players, used by
college students in New York City. The goal was to determine whether the students'
estimated noise exposure from PLD use alone was more or less than the
recommended exposure level for occupational noise (National Institute for Operational
Safety and Health [NIOSH], 1998). One potentially significant cause of noise-induced
hearing loss (NIHL) is attributed to recreational noise (Peng, Tao, & Huang, 2007;Weichbold
& Zorowka, 2007), such as the use of PLDs. PLD users may be at risk for NIHL if
they use these devices at high volumes for lengthy periods of time (Fligor, 2006). Research
shows that NIHL is the most common form of acquired hearing loss, secondary only to the
hearing loss related to age (Rabinowitz, 2000; Royster, 1996).
NIHL results primarily from long-term exposure to sounds that are excessively high
(National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2006). The data sets
used to determine the degree of hearing loss caused by noise were collected in the late
1960s and early 1970s in predominantly White, adult male populations that were exposed
to industrial noise (Baughn, 1973; Burns & Robinson, 1970; Lempert & Henderson, 1973;
Passchier-Vermeer, 1968). These data were instrumental in developing standards
(International Organisation for Standardisation, 1990; American National Standards
Institute [ANSI], 1996) to describe the relationship between noise exposure and
noiseinduced permanent threshold shift (NIPTS), as well as U.S. federal regulations
(Occupational Safety andHealth Administration [OSHA], 1983) and safety recommendations
(NIOSH, 1998).Current understanding of these data is that a maximum exposure of 85 dB,
A-weighted (dBA), for an 8-hr daily exposure over a working lifetime of 40 years results in
roughly 8% of exposed persons having a hearinghandicap (Prince, Stayner, Smith,&Gilbert,

1997), owing to the wide variability seen in susceptibility to NIHL across individuals.
Extrapolation of estimates of NIPTS to other populations (e.g., children and adolescents)
exposed to nonindustrial sound exposures (e.g., music) is therefore tenuous. With these
limitations acknowledged, it is well understood that higher sound levelsdamage hearing in
shorter periods of time than do lower sound levels. To equateNIHL risk, time-intensity
trading ratios are used (NIOSH, 1998) for sound exposures above a maximum
"safe" level known to not contribute to NIHL (Melnik, 1991).
Literature Review
Damage to the hearing mechanism from noise exposure is permanent and cumulative
through one's lifetime. NIHL from long-term sound exposure usually develops insidiously,
and so significant hearing loss exists before the individual becomes aware of his or her
communication difficulty secondary to cochlear damage. The contribution of PLD use to NIHL
remains a topic of debate. Evidence exists to support the need to consider recreational NIHL
a public health concern. Torre (2008) estimated that over 90% of college students own a
PLD. It is estimated that between 5% and 10% of PLD users regularly listen to music
at levels and for durations that put themselves at risk for NIHL (Clark, 1992; Felchlin,
Hohmann,& Matefi, 1998). Researchers have estimated that as many as 12.5% of
individuals aged 6 to 19 years have an audiometric configuration indicating they have noiseinduced threshold shifts in one or both ears (Niskar et al., 2001).
Research indicates that exposure to loud sounds over a long period of time may lead to
difficulty understanding speech (National Institute on Deafness andOther Communication
Disorders, 2007). Consequently, even a mild hearing loss may lead to an uncertain grasp of
many of the grammatical aspects of spoken language (i.e., weak consonants, such as
fricatives and stops; morphemes). NIHL renders sounds distorted or muffled while also
causing tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the head or ear in the absence of an external
stimulus (Daniel, 2007; Royster, 1996). Other auditory injuries from noise exposure include
loudness tolerance problems (e.g., hyperacusis) and pitch perception problems (e.g.,
diplacusis; Royster, 1996). Children and teenswho have been exposed to even a single
intense sound (sufficient to cause acoustic trauma) may experience both hearing loss and
tinnitus, with symptoms existing for at least a year or more (Holgers & Pettersson, 2005).
Several recent studies have reported the capacity for PLD output levels to present a risk for
NIHL (Fligor & Cox, 2004; Keith, Michaud, & Chiu, 2008; Portnuff & Fligor, 2006;W.Williams,

That PLDs are capable of causing NIHL is not a matter of debate. and (c) experiencing tinnitus or ringing in the ears (17%of students vs. Hodgetts. 2007).. 12% of adults). Worthington et al. 2005). Rice.000 adults in the United States and found that teens were more likely than adults to report three of the following symptoms of hearing loss: (a) increasing the volume on their television or radio (28% of students vs. 2009) and earphone type (Fligor & Ives. gender. (1996) reported that when ambient noise in the listening environmentwas increased to 72dBA. Rieger. 2009).W. 2009. A survey commissioned by the American Speech-Language. Portnuff. Teenagers frequently play their music at a higher intensity than do other PLD users while not realizing thelevel as potentially hazardous (Portnuff et al. 26% of adults). 2006) examined the reported hearing difficulties of 301 high school students and 1. 1996. Areasonable goal of hearing loss preventionists might be to identify subpopulations with greater concentrations of individuals at risk because of factors that predispose them to listen to music at louder levelsthan normal. 2006. teenage males 13 to 17 years of age were choosing higher listeninglevels on PLDs than were their female peers. Whether PLDs are used often enough. Fligor & Ives. Pekkarinen. 2008. Age. and other sociological and demographic characteristics may also contribute to sound exposure from PLDs. to pose a risk to a large number of users-a risk sufficient to warrant the attention of the popular media-is a matter of debate (Fligor. 21% of adults).. & Szarko. Portnuff et al. (b) saying "What?" or "Huh?" during normal conversation (29%of students vs. Rossi. 2006. 2006.Williams (2005) surveyed the listening levels of 55 adults on a noisy city street (where ambient levels were 73 dBA) and found that the average chosen listening level was 86dBA. 10% exceeded an 8-hr time-weighted average of 85 dBA. Such gender differences have been observed in other studies of PLD use (Fligor & Ives. of 350 cassette tape player users. Airo et al. W. and Olina (1987) estimated that only 1 in 1.These two studies independently show PLD users choosing . Factors that are thought to contribute to chosen (or "preferred") listening levels are the level of ambient noise in the listening environment (Airo.2005). Researchers have reported awide range of estimates for individuals at risk of NIHL fromPLD use.500 PLDusers is at risk for a hearing disabilityfrom using PLDs. Williams. on average. the average chosen listening level of PLD users increased froman average of 69dBAin quiet to 85dBA. suggesting that gender differences may exist. Fligor. & Olkinuora. Felchlin et al. (1998) reported that.Hearing Association (Zogby. at high enough levels. & Arehart. Torre. (2009) also found that. 2009).

suggested that riders are at slight risk for NIHL from exposure to subway noise alone. and the large storage capacity of the iPod means that people can listen to it longer than with earlier technology. particularly among young people.7 hr/day) and days per week of use (M= 4 days/week). given the portability of large music libraries as well as sociological factors that motivate use despite the potential for NIHL risk.The participants inWorthington et al. It is noteworthy thatWorthington et al. Estimated weekly sound exposure from PLDs was determined by self-reported daily duration of use (M= 1. Williams estimated that 24% of his participants exceeded 85 dBA for an A-weighted 8-hr equivalent continuous sound level (LA8hn) based on measures of PLD output at use levels on a calibrated mannequin and participant self-reported use duration. the average L^sub Aeq^ was 87. and so perhaps a larger sample of participants who may use PLDs in noisy environments for longer durations might show a higher concentration of individuals at risk for NIHL. (2009) asked 30 participants to set PLDs to their preferred listening level in quiet and in 81 dB SPL of recorded subway noise and found that none of their participants exceeded recommended exposure levels. Barrera.'s study had estimated weekly exposures of 6.Worthington et al. With one of the largest public transit systems in the world.8 hr. (2009) showed an average L^sub Aeq^ in noise exceeding 85 dBA.7 dBA.a signal-to-noise ratio of 13 dBA. In . riders of the New York City subway system make up a reasonable target for study. the iPod is smaller and more portable than previous PLDs. This does not account for additional sound exposure from occupational and nonoccupational exposures. The reasons for a person touse a PLD in urban settings may include the capacity to do so. The iPod user is able to easily download music by connecting to the personal computer through iTunes and peer-to-peer networks. none of them were considered to be at risk for NIHL in either quiet or subway noise because no participant exceeded a weekly equivalent continuous exposure of 85 dBA. Although personal music players have been around since the 1980s. In quiet. Based on very conservative damage-risk criteria to assess any risk for hearing loss. Furthermore. and in noise. For example. Its popularity is partly due to its function and design. the popularity of the Apple iPod has dramatically increased PLD use. Conversely. the average A-weighted equivalent sound level (L^sub Aeq^) was 72 dBA. and Akram (2006) reported that noise levels on subway platforms were an average of 85. such as use of PLDs during and after one's commute. Gershon. and consequently. Neitzel. with levels in subway cars ranging from 84 to 112 dBA. Gershon et al.5 dBA.

car horns. postindustrial societies:mobility. which were not available with the cassette tape or even theCD. Jones. PLD users desire to redefine their daily schedule and create a private soundtrack to accompany their commute or gym . and entertainment (Du Gay.. p. Consumers now face an unprecedented level of choice and personalization. 1983). PLDusers can escape fromthe uncontrollable sounds of the city.g." an "urban nomad" (Du Gay et al. Putnam. Like the automobile. 2007. CDs or cassette tapes). These physical qualities create an opportunity for users to be at greater risk for NIHL. 2006. & Negus. People today also want to make public spaces conform to their desires (Boradkar. high technology. The white headphones of the iPod send the message that the wearer is not to be bothered (Bull..addition. 1997. Bull. This idea of "private listening in public places" represented a new and distinctive way of life: The Walkman user becomes the solitary figure in the crowd. 1993. and being asked for money or directions. Bull. 1997). 2008. with access to thousands of songs and individually customized playlists.music is finally truly and infinitely repeatable and reproducible. 2007. 16). Hall. 1997). even while in close proximity to others. Simmel. avoiding car alarms. The large number of songs and the compressed format mean that music can be listened to for a greater duration of time than with previous storage media (e. 1990. 2007). the PLDcan create solitude for the urban commuter. Cultural theorists interpreted the first self-contained PLD. youth. The Apple iPod extended and perfected these themes. using music to screen out the boring and routine aspects of daily life. This device allowed the user to become a "self-sufficient individual wandering alone through the city landscape. The PLD is particularly appealing to people in modern affluent cultures. Williams. R. subway noise. the compressed audio (e. 2000. The Social Factors Associated With Personal Listening Devices The social and cultural aspects of the iPod may play a greater role in the use of these devices than the physical features described earlier. choice. a portable cassette tape player called the SonyWalkman. modernism. MP3) file format allows music to move across space without being significantly degraded and to be reproduced without overtly losing sound quality (Boradkar. Mackay. where there is a high premium on personal space. Blesser&Salter. With the advent of compressed music files and audio file sharing and downloading.g.. Sennett. leading to a desire to withdraw and escape the streets (Bauman. as a cultural artifact embodying the values most associated with latemodern. 2006).

and McLuhan (1967). and leisure for young people (Kotarba. 2006). 2009). college students rated listening to their iPods as the coolest free time activity (Associated Press. It has been called an "urban Sherpa" or "digital Sherpa. they suggested that music stimulates the brain and changes the listener's emotional state." meaning that people rely on their iPods to navigate today's urban worldmuch as mountain climbers in the Himalayas rely on their guides (Bull. loud music is a favorite pastime of young people. They filter out the public soundscape and create their own controlled private soundscape (Szeliga. 1994). Levitin. Modern urban life can be particularly alienating for young people. and potentially to their detriment. rebellion. Music has played a primary role in this search for meaning. Since the inception of rock 'n' roll (and perhaps before). Benjamin (1973).workout. It can be reasonably assumed that young people are attracted. and individuality. 2005). 2007. Heidegger (1962). accompanied by its stylish marketing campaign. Drawing from the cultural theories of Adorno (1991). Furthermore. to venues and activities that involve loud music. 2007). causing relaxation or excitation (Blesser & Salter. who are struggling for identity and individuality. 2006). The iPod provides membership in a private club whose membership is in the millions (Jones. such as rock concerts. in addition to the social need to control and individualize personalspace. According to the Student Monitor. identity. Bull (2007) argued that the privacy and personalization of the iPod create a sense of warmth and connection in the distant and exclusive spaces of modern urban culture. more so than older individuals are. loud music makes the listener functionally unable to hear anything but the music at hand. Simun. The iPod's sleek and unique design. a market research group. As a result. It figures into young people's identities as .PLDusers report feeling calmer during their commute and experiencing more pleasure during even mundane work (Bull. 2008). Although the extant research is indirect. from the immediate physical world to an imagined world of themusician (Blesser&Salter. It has been called a "perfect" device and ranks number one among today's "cool" items (Levy. 2008. 2006). Marcuse (1964). appeals to young people. loud music was a sign of youth. clubs. The unmistakable white headphones of the iPod signal the possession of a hip. Blesser and Salter (2008) argued that. many users now describe the iPod as almost a necessity of life. The iPod has become a symbol of a generation and a marker of social status. By means of energetic masking. 2009). the iPod can lead to an altered state of consciousness. stylish cultural product. and now PLDs. thus transporting that listener to another aural space.

so it is possible that PLD users purposely play their music loud enough so others can hear it.cool. Huron. The Present Study The goal of the current study was to determine whether PLD users at a New York City college. in a way. feelings of alienation among urban youth as well as high energy and limited avenues for self-expression can lead teenagers and young adults to seek out altered states of consciousness or heightened physical experiences. Finally.2 years of age (Mdn = 20. including the stimulation of brain centers and a rapid heartbeat. Method Participants College students who used PLDs and walked onto the City University of New York campus. Simmel. We tested the following hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: Some PLD users will listen at high levels and report durations of use that place them at risk for NIHL. Consider that it is usually parents who ask their teenagers to turn down the music. 2006). particularly those who generally use subways to travel to school. range: 18-53). In the anonymous environment of a large city. rarely the other way around. Furthermore. use their PLDs at high enough levels and for durations long enough to place them at risk for NIHL. and different from those of older people. 1959. 1997). the anonymous nature of modern life results in the desire to broadcast one's identity (Goffman. iPod listeners who play their music at full volume are broadcasting their tastes and personalities and. which decreases social controls. rebellious. were invited to participate in this study. Participants consisted of 189 college students (92 males. Participants were invited to have their . 1997. 97 females) averaging 22. Hypothesis 3: Male PLD users will choose higher levels than will females. connecting to other people in otherwise anonymous and isolating urban settings. The physical effects. Hypothesis 2: PLD users who travel via the subway will listen at higher levels than will those who do not travel via the subway. adjacent to an exitfrom a subway station. are intensified when one's music is being played at a high volume (Gowensmith & Bloom.

fast (time constant = 125 ms) and slow (time constant = 1 s) integration of the sound level. A and C weighting. Although it is possible that some participants in this study had hearing loss (conductive or sensorineural). Although this sound level meter has limited accuracy relative to . whereas loudness recruitment may cause others with hearing loss to choose lower listening levels. date of birth. 1996. Neitzel.We constructed Jolene using a fashion mannequin and a Radio Shack sound level meter (Model 33-2055) modified with the microphone seated in the canal portion of a silicon model of an ear.. we sought to study a large cross-section of the urban population. No efforts were taken to determine whether participants had normal hearing because in this investigation. Loss of hearing sensitivity may cause some individuals with hearing loss to choose higher listening levels. & Seixas. Procedure and Measures We measured sound levels from each participant's PLD using a mannequin built according to The Jolene Cookbook (Martin & Martin.g. the type of PLD and earphones they used. 2005.earphone levels measured and were asked to fill out a questionnaire requesting demographic information (i. whether they had just exited the subway. the influence of hearing loss on chosen listening level to PLD is not well defined. and gender). Airo et al. no effort to screen for normal hearing was deemed appropriate for the purpose of this study. whether the volume control of their PLD was the same since they had left the subway. which is designed to be visually attractive and capable of assessing free-field equivalent sound levels from earphones. a range from 50 to 126 dB.Worthington et al.e. 2009). 2007).. Participants were eligible for the study if they were adults (age 18 and older) and provided informed consent.Williams. according to product literature. Daniell. and the duration and frequency of use of their PLD (see the Appendix for a copy of the questionnaire). some of whom may have hearing loss. This sound level meter has a digital display. W. Because we had no expectation that a higher rate of hearing loss would be present in this study population compared with other urban users of PLD. and.. an accuracy of ±2 dB at 114 dB SPL and a frequency response of 32 to 10000 Hz.Although the use of a self-report introduces some error in the measure.. 2009). Self-reported listening duration (total listening time per day and days per week) was considered an appropriate variable for estimating daily and weekly exposures because this has been used in previously published studies (e. age. there is evidence that selfreport of use of ear-level devices does closely match actual behavior in some circumstances (Griffin.

0 dB (M = 5. 2008. Thus. In-the-canal earphones (earphones that are seated deeply in the ear canal) did not fit the mannequin's silicone ear because the length of the silicone ear's canal was too shallow to accommodate their full insertion. We calibrated the mannequin using the Microphone In Real Ear technique (International Organisation for Standardisation. A hole was pierced with a needle in the side of the canal of the silicon ear.a laboratory-quality measurement system (e. the difference between the overall A-weighted levels measured by the mannequin's sound levelmeter and the overallA-weighted TFOE-corrected ER-7c probe microphone measured levels was 4. determining a free-field equivalent correction factor for in-the-canal earphones for this mannequin was not possible. This TFOE correction was saved as a filter in the Audition software. its performance was considered acceptable for the purpose of this study. These songs were the No.5 mm) was positioned 2mmin front of the microphone that was seated in the silicone model ear and connected to the sound level meter." and "rock. a Type I sound level meter). 1 downloaded songs on iTunes.We used five songs as the stimuli for comparing TFOE-corrected levels recorded via the ER-7c probe microphone with those levelsmeasured by the mannequin-modified sound level meter. The difference in frequency response between the free field and the ear canal probe microphone measures was considered the TFOE for this mannequin.5mmwas inserted into this piercing. This probe tube was connected to an ER-7c Probe Microphone System (Etymotic Research. Inc.. The two earphones used for calibration were the Apple iPod earbud earphone included with the purchase of an iPod and the Koss KSC11 over-the-ear headphone (Koss Corporation). Using the earbud earphone. This TFOE filter was applied to recorded sound files of music that were presented via two different earphones placed on the model ear. 2002) to determine a coupler to freefield correction factor to report free-field equivalent levels(transfer function of the outer ear [TFOE] of the mannequin).5)." "country. Pink noise generated in Adobe Audition was presented via loudspeaker at 70 dBA (verified via a separate Radio Shack sound level meter held by the mannequin's ear) and measured via ER-7c in the free field and again via the probe microphone in the ear canal of the mannequin." "hip-hop/rap. and a metal grommet with an inner diameter of 1. Using the over-the- .g. SD = 0. version 1. in the genres of "alternative.0 dB.4 to 6." "pop. A probe tube (outer diameter: 1." A single number considered the typical level of the chorus of the song observed on the sound level meter (set to "slow" integration and A-weighting) was reported.) and routed to a personal computer running data acquisition software (Adobe Audition.5).com on December 30. rounded to the nearest decibel.

8 dB (M = 5. Earbudswere used by 183 participants. we estimated noise exposure by day and by week on the basis of the PLD user's reported duration of use per day and days per week of use. No participant's free-field corrected earphone output was less than the 45 dBA measurement floor of our mannequin. Data Measures Ambient noise in the vicinity of testing. 2009).1 dBA (M= 60. Of the 202 participantswho gave informed consent. participants were counseled regarding their relative risk for NIHL and how they could take steps to mitigate risk if necessary. Estimations of sound exposure. SD = 1.6 dBA. We thus excluded the sound level measures of these 13 participants from the estimations of sound exposure. the output of which could not be accurately measured with our mannequin. the level observed on the Radio Shack sound levelmeter had 5 dB subtracted from it to be considered an approximation of the free-field equivalent A-weighted sound pressure level)..0 to 68. One male participant and one female participant had free-field corrected earphone output of 121 dBA (the measurement ceiling of our . SD= 3. Sound levels in the testing locale were assessed using a SoundPro SP SE-2-1/3 Type 2 sound level meter (Quest Technologies).5 dB. for free-field corrected earphone output with our mannequin was 45 to 121 dBA. A single-number correction factor of 5 dB was considered appropriate for this field study (i. Ambient streetnoise ranged from56. but this request was denied. with exclusion of in-the-canal earphones.7 to 6.e.1 dB. sevenmale participants and six female participants used in-the-canal earphones. The location where data were collected was on a sidewalk just inside the entrance to the campus. The levels measured from participants' earphones were assumed to be representative of their typical listeninglevels. and over-the-ear headphones were used by six participants. After the PLD level measurements were taken.ear headphones. A request was made of the New York City Transit Authority to conduct this study inside the subway station. then. The possible measurement range. The ambient street noise levelwas never equal to or above the level measured from the earphones of a participant. adjacent to the entrance of a subway station.1). Consequently. Mdn = 60. the difference between the overall A-weightedlevels measured by the mannequin's sound level meter and the overall A-weighted TFOEcorrected ER-7c probe microphone measured levels was 3. This 5-dB correction factor. for use with the Jolene mannequin has been advocated by other researchers (Berger & Stergar.0 dBA).

Results . Exceeding 85 dBA for LA8hn and/or L^sub Awkn^ would reflect an increased risk for NIHL.mannequin)..(4) where Dday is the daily noise dose (in percentage form) and Dwk is the weekly noise dose (in percentage form) based onLA8hn andL^sub Awkn^ of 85 dBAconstituting themaximum (100%) allowable daily and weeklynoise dose. we used this level of 121 dBA for these two participants' free-field corrected earphone listeninglevel...(3) and the estimated weekly noise dose was determined according to . We made estimates of 8-hr equivalent continuous sound levels (LA8hn) per day on the basis of the levelmeasured from the participant's earphones and reported daily listening duration: .(1) where LR is the free-field corrected earphone listening level and TR is the reported daily listening duration in hours. as would exceeding 100% for Dday and/or Dwk. We made estimates of 40-hr equivalent continuous sound levels (L^sub Awkn^) on the basis of the same measured earphone level (LR) and reported daily listening duration (TR). For the sake of estimatingexposure.... respectively. The estimated daily noise dose was determined according to the following formula: .. multiplied by number of days per week of use (making the assumption that the duration of each day's use is the same): . this is therecommended exposure limit adopted by NIOSH (1998).(2) where Dayswk is the reported days per week of PLD use..

7 dB). with an SD of 11. Mean scores are presented in Table 1. Although at least 20 out of the 49 subway rider PLD users (41%) had adjusted the level of their devices after leaving the subway. for both the daily and weekly exposures. respectively). There has previously been a supposition that persons who use over-the-ear headphones listen at levelslower than those who use earbud earphones (Hodgetts et al. Hypothesis 2: PLD Users Who Travel Via the Subway Will Listen at Higher Levels Than Will Those Who Do Not Travel Via the Subway As summarized in Table 2.4 dBA. SD = 10. a majority of participants in this study were at increased risk for NIHL.With 183 earbud users and only six over-the-ear headphone users. the estimated LA8hn was 87.91) versus those who did not travel by subway (i. respectively. the median noise dose was 157%.. or car.2% of PLD users exceeded daily sound exposure limits. we were not able to conduct statistical analyses to compare means. with a reported average 18.157). although this value is highly skewed by those participants with the highest noisedose. There was no significant correlation between listening level and reported duration of PLD use (Pearson r = .2 dBA and 87. there was no significant difference between the earphone output of those who did adjust the volume .68).05 between measured earphone output for the PLD users who traveled by subway (93. bus.e.3 dBA.36). In the present study.. The estimated LA8hn and L^sub Awkn^ are represented in box-and-whisker plots in Figures 1 and 2. and 51.2 dBA (SD= 11. according to a two-way independentsamples t test (p = . the mean and median of both LA8hn and L^sub Awkn^ are similar (Ms for LA8hn and L^sub Awkn^ were 87.6 dBA (SD = 10.8 dB). a two-way independentsamples t test indicated there was no significant difference at a < .9 dB. Figure 3 is a histogram of estimated L^sub Awkn^. 92. Hypothesis 1: Some PLD Users Will Listen at High Levels and Report Durations of Use That Place Them at Risk for NIHL The average free-field corrected listening level was 92.9% of PLD users exceeded weekly sound exposure limits. SD = 10. and the estimated LA8hn for over-the-ear headphone users was 85.3 dBA for earbud users (SD = 11.4 hr of use per week (SD = 17.The results showed that 58. p = .1 dBA.1). These results indicate that the average participant in this study exceeds the NIOSH-recommended exposure limit. 2007). As expected from the way these estimates were made. The average dailynoise dose was 3. traveled by foot.07. Thus. the data are relatively normally distributed.289%.5 dB).

and the average male L^sub Awkn^ was 88. More than half the participants in the present study were at risk for NIHL. Hypothesis 3: Male PLD Users Will Choose Higher Levels Than Will Females The average free-field corrected earphone output was 92. Therefore. The population that falls into this category represents the demographic group at risk for NIHL and commands the relative attention given by public health advocates. the data from our study are consistent with this previous report.. 2009. It has been previous reported (Felchlin et al. The average LA8hn of female participants was 86.3 dB) for males and 92. SD = 9. 1996. 2006). SD = 11. Twenty-five percent of participants had L^sub .. Discussion These data indicate that the average free-field corrected PLD user's chosen listening level was in excess of the generally considered rule of thumb of not exceeding 85 dBA.1 dB) for females. 2009). A two-way independent-samples t test failed to show a difference betweenmale and femaleLA8hn (p = . Fligor & Ives. respectively.48). The average L^sub Awkn^ of female participants was 86.0 dBA.7 dBA (SD = 10. that equatesNIHL risk. it is only those PLD users who choose levels in excess of a safe listening level and use PLDs longer than is safe for their chosen listening level who are at risk for NIHL.5 dBA.6 dBA.3 dBA (SD = 11.67) on their PLD compared with the earphone output of those who did not (average free-field corrected levels = 94. with no significant difference between these means (see Table 3). 1998) that chosen listening level and duration of use are not associated.5 dBA. the level integrated over time). Risk for NIHL is not as simple as chosen listeninglevel.4 dBA.control (average free-field corrected levels = 91.69). The LA8hn and L^sub Awkn^ of male and female participants are reported in Figures 4 and 5.2 dBA and in a given week was 87.8 dBA. because it is the normalized equivalent continuous sound level (i.. Torre. however.We chose this study population because they are college students who have been previously reported to be common users of PLDs (Danhauer et al. The average equivalent continuous level of participants in this study in a given day was 87. 2008).62) andmale and female L^sub Awkn^ (p = . The size of this at-risk population has been a topic of debate (Fligor. 2006). and because background noise has been shown to increase PLD chosen listening level (Airo et al. based on time-intensity trading ratios. and the average male LA8hn was 87.8 dBA. because the ambient noise in the listeners' environment is high in New York City (Gershon et al.e...

441996. it is conceivable that in 10 years. 10%of participants had L^sub Awkn^ greater than 102 dBA. In this way. Previous research has reported that males choose listening levels that are higher than those chosen by females (e. In addition. 2007.. Williams. 2009. In contrast to Hypothesis 2. methods of measurement differ across investigations. or that nonsubway riders choose levels on par with subway riders.44-1996. It is possible that many more subway riders did reduce the volume control on their device and failed to disclose that they had done so when asked. for a 10-year exposure to L^sub Awkn^ of 95 dBA. In contrast to Hypothesis 3. Compared with the ageequivalent hearing thresholds at 4000 Hz reported in Annex B of ANSI S3. a measurement was obtained that was unbiased by the potentially strange listening environment of a laboratory or a presupposition on the part of the participants to anticipate a desired outcome by the investigators. 2009). Torre. 2006. and 5% of participants had L^sub Awkn^ greater than 107 dBA. 2008. the NIPTS for the person of average NIHL susceptibility is 20 dB HL. may have adjusted their listening levelbecause of the ambient street noise. and the NIPTS for L^sub Awkn^ of 107 dBA is 51 dB HL. Portnuff et al. The average age of participants in this study was 22. with some studies asking participants to adjust their listening in a laboratory setting (Hodgetts et al. and a 60year-old man (for persons exposed to L^sub Awkn^ = 107 dBA for 10 years).3 dBA) did not have significantly higher PLD sound exposure than nonsubway commuters (92. a 50year-old man (for persons exposed to L^sub Awkn^ = 102 dBA for 10 years). Torre. 2008). even after we accounted for those who reported adjusting the volume control on their PLDs. the NIPTS for L^sub Awkn^ of 102 dBA is 36 dB HL. some of these participants will be 32 years old and will have hearing that is on par with men who are decades older. 2005). 2008). Portnuff et al. with participants who were in essence blinded to the fact that their listening level would be .2 years. these 10-year NIPTS estimates reflect shifts in hearing thresholds that are on par with the hearing of a 40-year-old man (for persons exposed to L^sub Awkn^ = 95 dBA for 10 years). According to ANSI S3. In the current study. however.3 dBA). In addition.Awkn^ greater than 95 dBA. Torre. W. this study has a larger sample than previous studies that have found gender differences (Fligor&Ives. Thus.g.. 2006. all participants. regardless of gender.. there was no significant difference between PLD sound exposure for males and females in this study. sometimes in response to different levels of ambient sound (Fligor&Ives. participants who commuted using the subway (93. we obtained listening levels as participants entered the campus without prompting or instruction from investigators.

one should expect even fewer gender differences when looking at private activities such as listening to music with headphones. Felchlin et al. Perhaps there are societal differences between Australia and the United States that influenced the outcome for gender.Williams. Additional limitations include the fact that our method allowed us to make sound exposure estimates only from earbud and over-the-ear headphones. which still seem to influence modern-day attitudes.W. but these earphones provide sound isolation from ambient noise and so are used at lower levels than non-sound isolating earphones in higher levels of ambient noise (Fligor & Ives. 2006). theremay not be a difference in chosen listening level between genders.6 and 75. and given the relatively high level of ambient noise in the listening environment. Lorber. The overall sound exposure from PLDs in his study of 55 individuals was lower (LA8hn = 79. 1994).. It is possible that our study population is less susceptible to stereotypical gender norms. He found that men had soundexposures. self-report is the most effective measure for surveying use in a large number of participants (Griffin et al. past studies have relied on participant self-report (e." whereas boys are "rough and tumble.audited by researchers. 2006). however. This may mean that participants were less susceptible to pressure to conform to cultural norms concerning risky or wild behavior (Booth & Nolen 2009a.3 dBA.. Our findings are in contrast with those of W. 2008. Portnuff & Fligor. It has been previously reported that in-the-canal earphones can produce higher output levels than other earphones (Keith et al. that were at higher levels than women's (LA8hn = 80. Limitations of the current study include the fact that much of the estimates relied on the study participants' accurate report of their duration of PLD use.. on average.g. who also measured chosen listening levels. 2005) and. 2009b. rather than including in-the-canal earphones. in the absence of technical solutions to monitor participants' durations of use. respectively). for which there is even less external pressure to conform to gender norms. Victorian gender norms. 2009). 1998. this time on a city street in Australia. Conclusions . 2006)." Furthermore. Using a single observed sound level measured on the mannequin (which has an accuracy of ±2 dB) to be representative of listening level during all listening is tenuous.8 dBA) than in the present study. Williams (2005). they are "sugar and spice. dictate that girls exhibit lower levels of risk-taking behaviors than boys. It also is possible that background noise in the listening environment overcame gender differences that have been reported to exist when people listen in quiet environments (Fligor & Ives..

it is essential that speech-language pathologists and audiologists collaborate (Moore. these findings warrant efforts to provide targeted education for college-age people using PLDs in urban environments. Danhauer et al. Smiley & Threats..6%) in their nationwide survey believed that using an iPod at "loud listening levels" may damage hearing. PLD use. Although knowledge of the effect of loud noises on hearing loss has been present in the literature for the last 100 years (Lonsbury-Martin & Martin. 2005). responses to Danhauer et al. Although there is a need for further research to assess the accuracy of these estimates. 2007). (2009) advocated that members of at-risk groups .6 million portable music players in 2005 ("Portable Music Player Market. 2009. Furthermore.Estimates of noise exposure based on measured listening levels and reported listening duration suggest that the average PLD user in this study was at risk for NIHL. particularly at high levels. Considering these previous reports. 2006). or perhaps the information is available but has failed to elicit changes in behavior to reduce risk for NIHL. allows young people to retreat from the noises of noisy and crowded public areas and to add a personal soundtrack to otherwise mundane activities. Weichbold & Zorowka. the effect of noise on hearing abilities seems to have not consistently filtered down to PLD users in this study.'s questionnaire suggested that college students wish to exercise personal responsibility regarding their hearing health and that educational outreach campaigns that sensationalize hearing loss risk may not be effective. 2007. The exposure estimates indicate that a similar percentage of both sexes are at risk for NIHL. especially with a worldwide sale of 25. and the PLD listening environment during participants' commute did not yield obvious factors influencing PLD sound exposure. educational institutions may establish a preventative program to target the inappropriate use of PLDs (as well as other sources of noise). In addition. This was an increase of 409% from the previous year (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 2007). Danhauer et al. early identification of students with mild hearing loss is essential to provide them with the necessary supports for academic skills and to prevent greater loss of hearing abilities." 2005). The social factors described earlier may lead to a reluctance among young people to protect their hearing. specifically those affecting communication. Broader education on the appropriate use of PLDs and the effect of noise on hearing is essential (Serra et al. given that both professions are aware of the negative effects of hearing loss and are committed to the prevention of health disabilities. (2009) reported that the vast majority of college-age students (86. To prevent NIHL.

have considerably more limited storage of audio content. The average user is able to listen to a player at about 70% of full volume for about 4. 2006). 2006). guidelines . Such restrictive measures will surely fail in a market that thrives on individual expression. 2006). such as CD players. even in high background noise (Fligor & Ives. Contrary to popular belief. 2007) suggest that it is important that prevention programs begin early. with headphone type a secondary concern (Fligor & Ives. using in-ear headphones that completely seal the ear allow the user to block out background noise. perhaps at the preschool level. people tend to use their headphones at the same volume level. and Martin (2007) evaluated the effectiveness of the NIHL-prevention curriculum "Dangerous Decibels" and demonstrated that it effected better long-term outcomes regarding attitudes toward NIHL and intended behaviors in the cohort of younger children compared with older children.. whereas older devices. Guidelines have been developed to decrease the number of individuals who may experience NIHL (e. For instance.5 hr at 80% of the maximum volume control setting on the portable devices (Portnuff & Fligor. 2006). the primary risk lies in listening to music in noisy environments. to help prevent younger children from imitating older children's inappropriate use of PLDs.g. simple devices that seek only to limit earphone output level ignore the vitally important risk component of duration of use. the newer technology could more easily incorporate software to monitor estimated listening levels and duration of use and provide the PLD user with tools to make better hearing health choices while not being unnecessarily overprotective.participate in the design and dissemination of effective educational outreach campaigns. depending on backgroundnoise (Fligor & Ives.5 hr without risk (Portnuff & Fligor.ear or supra-aural headphones (Portnuff & Fligor. mass-storage flash memory MP3 players. In summary. such as the iPod. can store thousands of songs. and thus those users often choose to listen at lower levels. though. There is greater potential for users of newer technology to increase their duration of use. individuals should not listen to music for longer than 1. However. For example. For example. Greist. 2006).. Conversely. Working Toward Guidelines for the Prevention of NIHL These findings and the past literature on the effectiveness of NIHL-prevention curriculum (Greist et al. Progress in the development of more sophisticated PLDs also plays a role in potential NIHL. Fligor. 2006). Portnuff& Fligor. Folmer. 2006). 2006). There are also guidelines for the type of earphone used to reduce the risk of NIHL (Fligor & Cox. 2004. Although the output of in-ear or earbud-style headphones may be higher than overthe.

A most significant problem is that hearing loss occurs slowly. Tania Levey.asha. It is not possible to predict who is more at risk for NIHL. PLD users must become aware of their listening levels and know the maximum amount of time they can listen at their chosen level without risking hearing loss.263-277.54. it is best to exercise caution when using PLDs.org/cgi/content/full/54/1/263#BIBL This information is current as of March 13.org/cgi/content/full/54/1/263 References References . DOI: 10. by a Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Research Award. 1993). Fligor J Speech Lang Hear Res 2011. given that some individuals have "tougher" ears and others have "tender" ears (Henderson. originally published online Aug 5. in part.for both the appropriate listening level and the appropriate headphone type are necessary to reduce NIHL risk. is located on the World Wide Web at: http://jslhr. 2010. Consequently. if the device is used at high levels for extended durations. 2011 This article. parents or teachers may not notice this type of hearing loss in children/students until it is quite extensive. The results of the current study suggest that PLDs produce high enough sound levels to pose a risk of hearing loss. &Boettcher. Subramaniam. therefore. Acknowledgment The research reported in this article was supported. along with updated information and services. Thus. prevention is key.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0283) The references for this article include 4 HighWire-hosted articles which you can access for free at: http://jslhr. Sidebar Noise Exposure Estimates of Urban MP3 Player Users Sandra Levey.asha. and Brian J. Educational programs are essential to provide information on the actions necessary minimize risk for NIHL. thus. It is well established that not everyone shares the same risk of hearing loss.

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edu. Appendix Appendix.harvard. Massachusetts AuthorAffiliation Received December 24. and Harvard Medical School. Fligor Children's Hospital Boston. E-mail: brian. Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Disorders. Children's Hospital Boston.1044/1092-4388(2010/09-0283) Contact author: Brian J. The questionnaire used in this study.fligor@childrens. DOB: __________ Age: __________ Device: iPod_____ Other __________ Date: __________ Female __________ Male ____________ Just got off the subway? YES_____ NO_____ Is the volume control of your MP3 player the same since you left the subway? YES _____ NO_____ On days when you use your MP3 player.Brian J. MA 02115. 2010 Accepted June 17. Fegan 9. Boston. Cambridge. Massachusetts. 300 Longwood Avenue. how long do you usually listen? _____ hours How many days each week? _____ days . 2010 DOI: 10. Fligor. Boston. 2009 Revision received May 10.

Sandra. Fligor. Hearing protection. 2011 Indexing (details) Cite Subject Occupational safety. Tania. Ears & hearing. Hearing impairment. Colleges & universities.Ear phone type: _____ Earbud _____ On-the-ear (Supra-aural earphone) _____ Completely-around-the ear (Circumaural earphone) _____ In-the-canal ( Insert earphone) Initials of data recorder: _____ Decibels: _____________________________________________________________________ Word count: 9427 Copyright American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Feb 1. Prevention programs Title Noise Exposure Estimates of Urban MP3 Player Users Author Levey. Brian J Publication title Journal of Speech. Levey. Language and Hearing Research (Online) Volume 54 . Research & development--R&D. Noise.

Graphs.Equations.Issue 1 Pages 263-277A Number of pages 16 Publication year 2011 Publication date Feb 1.References ProQuest document ID 858019991 Document URL http://search. 2011 Year 2011 Publisher American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Place of publication Rockville Country of publication United States Publication subject Medical Sciences--Otorhinolaryngology. Handicapped--Hearing Impaired Source type Scholarly Journals Language of publication English Document type Feature Document feature Tables.com/docview/858019991?accountid=49910 .proquest.

Copyright Copyright American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Feb 1. 2011 Last updated 2011-10-10 Database ProQuest Medical Library .