My musings…

Loud music in the Metro

So this has been bothering me since before someone sent in the first editorial to the Express (a shortened down version of the Washington Post which is extremely convenient – and free – to read on the commute to work every day). 
First Letter - 11 August 2008
First Letter

Latest Letter

Latest Letter - 20 August 2008

Last week, someone sent in the first editorial to the Express complaining about some riders play their mp3s or CDs or Walkmans (yes, apparently they do still exist) way too loudly on the Metro trains.  Since then, there have been several response letters, each one a little angrier than the previous and for both sides of the argument.  So here are my 2 cents.

As someone who has a two+ hour commute to and from work every day, I definitely miss my mp3 player on the days that I forget it or when it’s not completely charged.  However, there should be limits on an acceptable volume.  First, there is a sign in every car that says you can’t play a radio without headphones.  This applies to your telephone as well.  There is no reason that I should be forced to listen to whatever music you decide to like.  And it’s not just the speakers on phones, either.  Two weeks ago, on a ride home from work, I was seated along the windows and I could hear the music of the girl sitting across the aisle from me (also by the windows).  That’s not even the worst of it, though.  A day or two later, I was sitting in the third row of seats back from the front of the car.  There was a guy listening to his headphones standing near the door (a distance of 12 feet, probably).  I could hear his music even more clearly.  In fact, if I listened to whatever genre of music it was, I could have sang along with it.  There are also times when I am listening to my music (at a reasonable volume) and I can hear the music of other metro riders over the volume of my music.  Unreasonable?  Yes. I wish I were able to approach these people and ask them kindly to turn down their music, but I’m worried that he/she will have a reaction similar to that of Ms. Blue’s (see above). (P.S. Ms. Blue – music may be your coffee to get you going in the morning, but coffee drinkers don’t force you to take a sip of their coffee now, do they?).

Secondly, does anyone realize the health risks associated with headphone use?  According to this article from 2007 and this page (updated regularly), “Loud and excessive noise directly in contact with the ear damages the hair cells in the inner ear causing permanent hearing loss.”  Another possible health risk is the growth of tumors (published in the Journal of Epidemiology).  “The European Heart Journal published a study showing that high levels of noise increases a person’s chances of having a heart attack.”  “High blood pressure is also linked to loud and excessive noise.”  “Experts recommend that if you are going to use headphones that you do not exceed 60 percent of the potential volume. Anything more than 60 percent and in excessive of one hour a day is considered excessive and recommended against by experts.”

This article recommends that one buy noise-cancelling earphones.  This earphones will block out background noise, allowing you to listen to your music at a much lower volume without disturbing those around you.  iPods also have a volume limit option.  I reduced the maximum volume of my iPod to about 85% of the normal maximum, but I still don’t even listen to it that loudly when I use my headphones.

Remember – headphones are a fairly new phenomenon and we don’t know what long term effects of headphone use at loud volumes will be, but better safe than sorry.  I don’t want to be one of those old folks in the back of the church not knowing what’s going on.  So be kind to your ears and those around you and turn the volume down!


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