Teenage use of portable listening devices: a hazard to hearing?

J Am Acad Audiol. 2011 Nov-Dec;22(10):663-77. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.22.10.5.


Background: Recently, a number of popular media articles have raised some concern that portable listening devices (PLDs) may be increasing the risk for music-induced hearing loss (MIHL). However, literature regarding adolescents' listening behavior and how their attitudes and beliefs relate to behavior is currently limited.

Purpose: The purposes of this study were (1) to investigate the relationship between volume control settings and output levels of PLDs, (2) to examine how adolescents' listening behavior changes as a function of background noise and noise isolation, (3) to investigate the relationship between self-reported listening levels and laboratory-measured listening levels, and (4) to evaluate the validity of the Listening Habits Questionnaire as a research tool for evaluating how attitudes and beliefs relate to PLD use behavior.

Research design: A descriptive study. Experiment 1 evaluated the output levels of a set of PLDs, and Experiment 2 characterized the listening behavior and attitudes toward PLD use of a group of adolescents.

Study sample: Twenty-nine adolescents aged 13-17 yr, with normal hearing, participated in Experiment 2.

Data collection and analysis: Experiment 1 evaluated the output levels of a set of PLDs with stock and accessory earphones using an acoustic manikin. Experiment 2 included survey measures of listening behavior and attitudes as well as output levels measured using a probe microphone.

Conclusions: The output levels of PLDs are capable of reaching levels that could increase the risk for MIHL, and 14% of teenagers in this study reported behavior that puts them at increased risk for hearing loss. However, measured listening levels in the laboratory settings did not correlate well with self-reported typical listening levels. Further, the Listening Habits Questionnaire described in this study may provide a useful research tool for examining the relationship between attitudes and beliefs and listening behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Loudness Perception
  • MP3-Player / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires