A news story about the threat of incremental hearing loss to users of current-generation portable music players caught my eye - with a sharp spike predicted in 20-years when the MP3 generation could become the ”pardon, what did you just say?” generation.
I do remember similar stories when the Walkman arrived. Alarmed audiologists predicted just such a disaster in waiting when it debuted and then later on with the Discman.
Yet, to date, there have been no statistics to bear this out. The Walkman has not sent an unusually high number of 40-somethings to hearing aid clinics to get technology to restore what technology has taken away. Nor for that matter has this happened with 30-somethings and their Discmans.
Though, Apple with its iPod, Microsoft with Zune and other companies selling these products should give some consideration to that story. It could well be a case of third-time accurate.
Walkmans were clumsy, ungainly products with not that great sound quality and tapes did jam a lot. The Discman, clunky again, had skipping problems when you were on the move. Neither machine was welcome in the office environment.
Not so the current digital generation players. They are sleek with no jamming or jumping, easy to access, contain massive storage and the sound quality is great. Moreover the earphones don’t give much noise bleed. It’s all going straight in. And they are pretty inexpensive.
As a result they are everywhere. People are plugged in on the bus, in planes, jogging and walking and at the workplace. How often have you asked a colleague a question and had to wait for the person to pop their earphones out?
Young people are vaguely aware of the risks of ongoing, excessive noise, they just don’t really understand the consequences.
For the companies selling these players, I’d suggest a pre-mortem exercise. Get some of their smartest people in a room and throw them this (worst-case) scenario.
”It’s 2032, our company faces a raft of class-action lawsuits from people with hearing losses claiming that their consistent use of our player caused it. [Never mind the rock concerts they attended, the all-night dance parties, the blasting stereos at home and in the car - you can’t sue yourself for stupidity.] What actions do we now wish our company had started taking in 2007 to minimise, if not expunge, our legal liabilities from these class action suits.”
Consider this: A woman in America successfully sued a furniture store for injuries received when she tripped over a child that was running around in the store. The child she tripped over was hers.