A few years ago, when I was in college, I had a bad case of swimmer’s ear caused by too many hours in the school’s pool. Then there was a fantastic concert on campus: Tiny Amps as a warm up for the headliners, Kind of Like Spitting. About two thirds of the way through Tiny Amps’ incredibly loud set my eardrum burst. For the next three weeks I couldn’t hear anything anyone to my left said.
Recent studies at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggest that I’m not the only teenager who damaged his/her hearing in recent years. The study looked at people ages 12 to 19 from 1988 to1994 and then from 2005 to 2006. The study showed that teenage hearing loss has gone up by 30%. People are fast to blame iPods, MP3 players and a lot of other portable music devices. While it is probable that the continual use of loud headphones has contributed, the study also spoke about diet and exposure to toxins as possible factors.
The one thing no one seems to have mentioned is the Digital Theater System or DTS. When this surround sound system was first introduced it was ground breaking. Going to Jurassic Park (the first film with DTS) in 1993 was amazing, it felt like the theater was shaking around you, the noise was in your chest, and you could hear the dinosaurs walking behind you before they appeared on the screen. I’m not suggesting that teens are going deaf because of films or that if the original studied had continued for a few more years past the introduction of DTS the studies results would show less disparity. What I’m saying is that sound, in all its forms has gotten a lot louder since the early 90s.
I’m not sure how much worse wearing earbuds all day is than wearing Sony Walkman headphones. What I do know is that walking by a row of stores now can be like walking past a row of nightclubs. You’re assaulted by the sound systems of every store blaring their music. Abercrombie and Fitch and the like seem to be in a war to grab your attention and out-loud each other. Should you go into one of these stores you have to raise your voice to be heard. So, at the risk of sounding like a fogey, maybe everyone should turn down the volume.
- Lily Barback