Purpose: To examine the sound level and duration of use of personal listening devices (PLDs) by 189 college students, ages 18-53 years, as they entered a New York City college campus, to determine whether noise exposure from PLDs was in excess of recommended exposure limits and what factors might influence exposure.
Method: Free-field equivalent sound levels from PLD headphones were measured on a mannequin with a calibrated sound level meter. Participants reported demographic information, whether they had just come off the subway, the type of PLD and earphones used, and duration per day and days per week they used their PLDs.
Results: Based on measured free-field equivalent sound levels from PLD headphones and the reported PLD use, per day 58.2% of participants exceeded 85 dB A-weighted 8-hr equivalent sound levels (L(Aeq)), and per week 51.9% exceeded 85 dB A-weighted 40-hr equivalent continuous sound levels (L(Awkn)).
Conclusions: The majority of PLD users exceeded recommended sound exposure limits, suggesting that they were at increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Analyses of the demographics of these participants and mode of transportation to campus failed to indicate any particular gender differences in PLD use or in mode of transportation influencing sound exposure.