11. 10. 2006
"What? . . . I can't hear you!"
That is the sorry refrain from many of the so-called "baby boomer" generation. Soon, it could be echoed by the "iPod generation." (I don't like to be labeled so I'm not declaring allegiance to either group.) We've all read the scary articles about hearing loss in the "iPod generation." According to one survey, about 13% -- more than five million kids (ages 6-19) -- have hearing loss in one or both ears already. Sure, loud rock music contributed to hearing loss among baby boomers. Take me for example; it took years of reviewing concerts before I got smart and statred wearing ear plugs, but by then I suspect I'd already done some damage.
But the real culprit is the new music players which make the problem much worse for the next generation. Don't get me wrong -- I think the iPod is the best new discovery since the Walkman, but I worry about the iPod generation, specifically my 11 year old daughter, Mackenzie, who is permanently attached to her pink iPod. Any device which pumps music directly into the ear canal, as ear buds do, easily desensitizes the listener to dangerously high sound levels. Since damage to hearing caused by high volume is determined by its duration, and we tend to listen to iPods for long periods of time, we damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear that transmit sound impulses to the brain. Studies have shown that listening to anything over 80 decibels can ultimately create hearing loss.
Addressing this problem, France and other European countries have enacted laws that limit the volume of iPods and other devices to 100 decibels. It took only 2 days before posts appeared on the web with detailed instructions on how to circumvent the new laws. Of course.
A recent study conducted by MTV of 10,000 people who responded to a survey posted on the MTV web site, indicates that only 8 percent considered hearing loss "a very big problem."
That was even below their concern about acne (18 percent). As an aside, I'd like them all to read Pete Townshend's account of his Tinnitus . That's enough to make you instantly turn down the volume.
So, what's been done about this problem? Realizing that you've got to get the kiddies early, Kid's Ear Saver has developed an attachment that permanently attaches to headphones and reduces the volume of any connected sound device, including CD/DVD players, games, computers and stereos.
That's great for the little ones, but this isn't going to work when they notice their friends don't have this attachment. That's where Ingemi comes in.
Ingemi Corp, whose company logo is "Kids Come First," is the first to the market with earbuds specifically geared to childen, with their iHearSafe line.
With patent-pending technology, the key to iHearSafe is keeping the volume below 80 db regardless of how high the volume is turned up on any MP3 or other audio devices. The president of the company, Christine Ingemi, a mom with 4 kids under 11 years old, told me: "I searched for a product that would limit the volume that could not be circumvented and there were none. Therefore, I invented the iHearSafe Earbuds.Kids are too young to comprehend the consequences of hearing damage by listening too loud, so take control."
The U.S. government guidelines indicate hearing loss can begin at a volume of 85 decibels. Obviously, if the highest volume the earbuds can produce is below the level where hearing damage occurs, it's clear that they are the safest way a parent can prevent noise-induced hearing loss with earbuds.
Though still in the manufacturing stage, we got got a pair to try out. I can testify that they certainly generate enough volume, while still allowing you the visceral pleasure of cranking the volume to the max. But what about replaceing a youngster's regular iPod earbuds with these? That's where it gets tricky. My 11 year old immediately told me they didn't "go loud enough" and she wouldn't use them. So the key is to get them early. Let your munchkin turn up the voulme to 11, but the limiter will keep them at a safe level. The earbuds are set in accordance with ASHA and OSHA safety limits.
Children's headphones are in the process of being designed by Ingemi as well, possibly available by spring. Sony, Bose and Panasonic already sell the expensive "noise-canceling headphones," but they're generally too expensive for children.
You can pre-order the earbuds for $24.99 only at Ingemi Corp.