Credit:Dom Cruz(Flickr)

Researchers warned that by listening to your iPods and MP3 players at high volume for several hours a day may risk yourself of deafness in your later years.

Inserting earphones into the ear canal intensifies the volume which can reach over 120 decibels, equivalent to the noise from a jet engine, according to Professor Peter Rabinowitz of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine programme at Yale University.

Deafness, including mild to moderate hearing loss, is one of the commonest chronic medical conditions in older people and the most frequent cause is excessive long-term exposure to noise which damages the hair cells in the inner ear. The Royal National Institute for the Deaf said two thirds of MP3 player users listened to music at volumes greater than 85 decibels.

Several small studies have found a link between use of the players and poorer hearing in young people. But evidence on whether young people as a whole are losing their hearing faster than previous generations is mixed - probably because the use of the players has only recently become ubiquitous.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Rabinowitz said the use of personal music players had grown faster than our ability to assess their potential health consequences. Surveys show more than 90 per cent of young people listen to the devices, often for several hours a day and at maximum volume.

Damage to hearing is not the only risk. Some studies have shown that listening to an iPod or MP3 player while driving can interfere with concentration in the same way as using a mobile phone.

Professor Rabinowitz  urge that clinicians should advise current users to avoid listening to personal music players at maximum volume. Regarding other safety concerns, it would be prudent to advise removing earphones while driving and performing other safety-sensitive tasks.

The RNID has been working with the the European Union to raise awareness of this problem because people regularly use these devices and are often not aware that they could be putting their hearing at risk.

As the EU develops new regulations for personal music players, it is vital that manufacturers and governments are supportive of these plans and work together to protect the hearing of a generation of music lovers.