The report was published in the June issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery.
One expert says the technology of MP3 music files may also be a factor in the hearing damage seen in this study.
Paul R. Kileny, director of audiology and electrophysiology at the University of Michigan Health System, said in addition to volume levels, which can cause hearing damage, MP3s use a compression system to make music files smaller -- a technique that may also lead to hearing loss.
"The natural peaks and valleys of the music, which is the saving grace for our ears in terms of exposure, have disappeared," he said. "There are less valleys and more peaks. In any piece of music you have less soft breaks than you used to with CDs or vinyl."
In addition, the effect of putting earphones in your ear canal varies with the size of the canal, Kileny said. The younger you are or the smaller you are, the smaller the ear canal. A small ear canal makes music louder than the same music played at the same volume in a larger ear canal, he said.
To prevent hearing loss, Kileny recommends keeping the volume down and reducing the time you listen.
"Prolonged listening at maximum volume, I believe, over time can result in hearing loss," Kileny said. "It's cumulative -- it could take 20 years to 30 years."
Another expert, Robert Fifer, an associate professor of audiology and speech pathology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, said that "the ear doesn't care what kind of sound it is, it really only cares how loud that sound is and for what time duration."
Fifer advises keeping the volume at a level where you can still hear conversation around
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