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With Macworld being all the hype today, we thought we'd bring you a little reminder that not all things iPod have to be good. According to the Wall Street Journal, doctors are starting to see younger folks coming in with signs of noise-induced hearing loss, which they are attributing to the constant use of MP3 players and earphones. Not to worry, much of the same worries were raised when Sony brought out its Walkman those many years ago, but it does seem that because of the advanced technology in the new players (meaning more storage space and longer lasting batteries) we're all listening to our tunes just a little longer than before. And get this—hearing damage is directly related to the duration of exposure, not just the volume. Who knew?

Hearing specialists at centers such as the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, Children's Hospital Boston and the American Academy of Audiology say the effect they are seeing now may be only the beginning, because accumulated noise damage can take years before it causes noticeable problems. "We're only seeing a few teenagers with hearing loss at this point," says Brian Fligor, director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston. But, he adds that many others may have subtle hearing loss that they have yet to recognize, "and by the time they do, they'll have done substantial damage."

But don't fret too much; there haven't been enough studies to be sure about anything yet. And if you're really worried, you may want to start thinking about noise-canceling headphones, which will block out the background noise and let you listen to your music at lower levels.

Behind the Music:
IPods and Hearing Loss [WSJ]