Man with headphones listening loud music

Dr. Fligor Chats With The Atlantic About a Preventable Threat

MP3 players may be past their 2000s heyday for music-playing, surpassed by the popularity of smartphones and streaming. But with their then-ubiquitous use — or rather, misuse — linked to the risk of hearing loss among young people and others, the devices prompted some important health conversations and warnings.

Our own Dr. Brian Fligor, audiologist-in-chief and president of Tobias & Battite, talked with The Atlantic for the magazine’s timely story, “How the iPod and Other Audio Devices Are Destroying Your Ears.” And though consumer habits may have changed a bit since the 2011 article hit the internet, the prevalence and risk of music-related hearing loss continues.

The fact is that exposure to high volumes of music over time could lead to permanent hearing loss. Any sound at 85 decibels or greater can damage the ears, but smartphones and other music-playing mobile devices may reach as much as 94 to 110 A-weighted decibels. With millions of people enjoying music through these devices, that’s a lot of ears potentially at risk.


Some of the alarming stats shared by the World Health Organization include:

  • An estimated 50% of those ages 12 to 35 in middle- and high-income countries use smartphones, MP3 players, and other personal listening devices at unsafe volumes
  • Approximately 40% of that population is exposed to harmful sound levels at nightclubs, bars, sports arenas, and other entertainment spots
  • About 1.1 billion people overall are vulnerable to hearing loss from dangerous listening habits, which could potentially be replaced with healthier practices


Choosing healthier music-listening practices is easier than many may think. Headphones that block exterior noise can be a big help (but stay fully alert to your surroundings); curbing the surrounding sounds may lessen the temptation to increase the device’s volume. For similar reasons, it’s also good to wear headphones or earbuds in both ears rather than just one.

Taking breaks from the devices — including limiting use to just 90 minutes a day — can also aid in preserving your hearing. During that use, it’s important to set the volume at no higher than 80% of the maximum. Keep the volume at no more than 60% of the maximum if your use of the devices is more frequent.


At Tobias & Battite, we educate patients about the dangers of noise-related hearing loss as well as solutions, such as prevention and custom hearing protection. To learn more or to schedule a hearing evaluation, please don’t wait. Contact our expert audiology team today. We’re HEAR to help!


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