The World Health Organisation states that loud noise is the single biggest preventable cause of hearing loss in the UK. Due to advances in portable media player technology, users are now able to store and play music for much longer. Due to this, there is a huge potential risk for overexposure to noise using these devices. It is now estimated that over 4 million young people in the UK are suffering with the effects of noise induced hearing loss from listening to amplified music in the UK.
The suggested noise exposure limit recommended by UK governing bodies is 85 dBA referenced to an 8 hour work day exposure time. If the noise levels are increased, the allowed time of exposure is reduced to compensate, using an exchange rate of each additional 3 dB halving the allowed exposure time. Portable media players are regularly capable of delivering 101 – 107 dBA. As an example, an average listening level of 100dBA could be damaging to hearing after just 15mins.
Despite the huge level of risk, there is a lack of education and awareness among young people, and many do not understand the risks. Research by Action on Hearing Loss has also shown that 64% people who listen to portable media players for extended periods of time (>21 hours weekly) also take other noise risks, such as going to loud clubs or gigs.
Our measurement system currently consists of an NTi XL2 sound level meter that is controlled via a PC running National Instruments LabView software (seen in the header image). The sound level meter is used to read in the calibrated sound pressure level being received at a microphone that has been mounted in the canal of an artificial ear. The recorded sound pressure level is then used to determine the maximum amount of time that can be spent listening to sound at that volume before it could become dangerous, causing hearing damage.
By promoting more research in to the field of hearing loss we hope to better educate young people (and their parents!) about the dangers of exposure to loud noise. In future we hope to use our system to gather data from a number of different age groups to investigate how the way they listen to music is changing, and to make them better aware of how it could affect them in the future.
Click on the poster images above for more information!