• Mon, Oct 31 2011

Say What? Your Workout May Be Making You Hard Of Hearing

For some reason, in spite of the fact that most of us carry our own portable music devices, gyms and other fitness centers still seem keen on blasting Katy Perry and Aerosmith over the loudspeakers. Unfortunately, if you’re cranking your volume to drown out the sound of their jams (or the grunter beside you), you could be doing serious damage to your hearing.

Earbuds, since being popularized by Apple, have been almost uniformly embraced by runners and other cardio-lovers as the most convenient way to eliminate outside sound, without having to sweat into bulky noise-cancelling headphones. However, they can also wreak havoc on the inner workings of your ears, by delivering a much louder dose of sound than standard foam headphones.

And while most studies so far have looked at hearing loss in teens as a result of earbuds and iPods, anyone who works out regularly, either in a gym or on a trail, can attest to the fact that plenty of adults are rocking (and rocking out with) the little white nubs of noise with great frequency–particularly if they’re exercising multiple times a week, for several hours.

In fact, it doesn’t even take that long. At the volume that many of us listen to our devices while working out, just an hour and 15 minutes may be enough to significantly reduce hearing capabilities. Additionally, both exercising and trying to overpower outside noise (like the insufferable oldies playlist favored by gym managers) make us more likely to turn up the tunes, to levels well beyond what would normally be reasonable.

How do you know if you’ve entered the danger zone? Here’s a quick test: turn on your mp3 player or other music device inside the gym–on a treadmill or stationary bike, preferably–to where you’d like it for exercise. Then, turn it off, head to the locker room, and turn it back on and listen again. If it’s too loud for you to comfortably listen to in the locker room (or if you can hear the music without putting the earbuds in), it’s too loud.

Instead of waiting until you get going to turn up the volume, turn on your music before you leave the locker room, and lock the volume. That way, even when you think you need it to be louder, you’re aware of how loud is too loud. Some devices also let you cap the volume at a reasonable amount, so even if you crank it to full-blast, you’re still not doing too much damage.

Music is a great motivator for working out–but too much of a good thing can cause one very bad side-effect. Don’t let excessive volume counteract the positive impact of a good workout. Keep it down, both for your safety (and the sanity of your friends and family).

Image: Aleksandr Markin / Shutterstock

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