Listening to loud music through headphones can make a walk, run or bike ride more enjoyable, but it can distract from potential hazards. There are two serious issues: compromised safety and the risk of increased hearing loss. Serious accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones with electronic devices such as iPods and MP3 Players have more than tripled since 2004. The risk of danger increases significantly with hearing loss.
Research in the January 2012 Injury Prevention Journal reports that 70% of collisions end in fatalities. Two out of three victims were male, under the age of 30. It was reported that nearly a third of the vehicles sounded some type of warning signal prior to the crash. Pedestrians wearing headphones are less likely to hear the warning signals around them, increasing their risk of injury. Many times the listener turns the volume of the music high to overcome the surrounding noise, but the loud music can mask the sound of a car horn, siren, or even a train whistle.
Researchers also advise against wearing Noise Cancelling Headphones when exercising outdoors.
In addition to safety issues, prolonged exposure to loud music can put a person at an increased risk of permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss is on the rise and occurring at a younger age. It affects one in five Americans over the age of 12. Untreated hearing loss can contribute to depression, withdrawal from social situations, relationship challenges, lower earnings, and increased risk for personal safety.
Below are tips to increase safety and lower the risk of hearing loss when listening to music while exercising:
1. Turn the volume on the electronic device down. Good rule of thumb: “60/60”. Listen at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time.
2. Listen through only 1 ear bud when exercising outdoors.
Reference: Lichenstein et al, Headphone use and pedestrian injury and death in the United States: 2004–2011, Injury Prevention Journal, January 2012.
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