"If it's too loud, you're too old," has been a traditional rallying cry of the rock 'n' roll generation. Ironically,
though, a more accurate slogan would be, "If you're too old, it may not be loud enough." Hearing loss has long been
associated with advancing age and, sadly, people may be accelerating the process by playing music at volumes loud
enough to damage their ears.
This longstanding problem has received fresh scrutiny in the age of digital audio players that, unlike their cassette and CD-based forebears, can operate uninterrupted for hours at a time at very loud volumes. Moreover, these products are often used with "in-ear"-style earbuds, which have been popularized with the iPod the way that lightweight foam headphones were popularized with the original Walkman.
Some of these earphones require that the audio player be turned to its nearly maximum volume in order to listen at moderate volumes. Others, especially those capable of sound isolation (which blocks out background noise), better reflect the volume range of these devices. Adjusting the volume to moderate levels produces moderate volume.
With this in mind, I challenged a high-end manufacturer of sound-isolating earphones with the following — if earphones that let in more background noise have to be played at near-maximum volume in order to be heard well, aren't they "safer"? After all, even if the volume is turned to its maximum level, the music shouldn't be too loud. In contrast, with sound-isolating earphones, one could play music at much louder volumes and endanger oneself.