The findings recently appeared online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers found that almost two-thirds of the subjects mainly risked being exposed to noise through listening to music, Neitzel said. "What's happening to them at work isn't putting their hearing at risk as much as listening to MP3 players and going out to concerts," he said.
Ten percent of those who used transit were at risk of hearing loss from transit alone, Neitzel said. Also, "nine out of 10 of New Yorkers are at risk of hearing loss when you look at their total noise exposure: MP3 players plus work plus riding transit."
People, of course, have been listening to music players of various types for decades. Neitzel acknowledged that but said one key difference is that the players work for longer periods than in the past, when batteries would run out after a while.
The research has value, said acoustics specialist Warwick Williams, who's familiar with the study findings. "Instead of hearsay and guesswork, we can actually say what people are exposed to, how loud and how long," said Williams, a senior research engineer at Australia's National Acoustic Laboratories.
"Can people estimate how much noise they are exposed to and how noisy their lifestyle is or may be? The answers to these questions appears to be yes," he said. However, he added that statistics like these are more accurate reflections of people overall than individuals.
The next step, study author Neitzel said, is to determine whether hearing loss is as common as the research would suggest.
For now, said Williams, "without trying to be a 'kill-joy,' people should enjoy their music but try to limit their exposure by reducing the volume and/or limiting the time. Be aware of your hearing health and just remember that if you lose it, it won't come back."
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