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iPods, MP3 players 'can damage hearing'

Scientists in Europe have shown that listening to music on headphones for an hour can have a temporary impact on people's hearing because of the damage caused to the hair cells in the outer ear.

Participants in the study had their hearing tested and were then asked to listen to pop or rock music for six one hour long sessions using two different types of headphones and at varying, preset volumes, The Daily Telegraph reported. After each session, the scientists measured the responses of the 21 men and women aged between 19 and 28 to a very short sound and then two sounds of different frequencies to see how clearly participants could hear the tones.

A control group of 14 people of the same ages was used to compare the results.

Lead researcher Dr Hannah Kempler, of Ghent University, Belgium, said the tests were designed to study the short-term effects on the auditory system of young adults listening to an MP3 player for one hour.

"It is well known that excessive occupational noise exposure can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. The increasing popularity and availability of portable music players has caused concern about the potential hazardous effects on hearing.

"Excessive noise exposure can lead to metabolic and/or mechanical effects resulting in alterations of the structural elements of the organ of Corti (the inner ear organ in mammals that contains auditory sensory cells or 'hair cells').

"The primary damage is concentrated on the outer hair cells, which are more vulnerable to acoustic overstimulation that inner hair cells," she said.

The study has been published in the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery journal.

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