The 80/90 rule

Marshall Chasin
April 12, 2011

Brian Fligor and his colleagues have come up with a good “first estimate” of what we can tell our clients (and the media) about MP3 use.  It turns out that the main element in an MP3 player (other than the volume setting) is which earphone is used.  For the same song, same MP3 player, and the same volume, outputs can have over a 20 dB range, meaning real ear levels from 85 dB to 105 dB… all because of the earphones.

When all is said and done this is where the 80/90 rule comes in.  As a first estimate, one can listen at 80% volume for 90 minutes a day and this will give you about 50% of the daily dose of noise or music exposure.   If you want to listen for more than an hour and a half a day, maybe you should drop the volume, or simply become more sociable with your friends and put away your MP3 player.

This also means that if your favorite song comes along, turn up the volume and enjoy it, just turn it back down later.  Since music affects us by the “dose” and not the occasional peak level, its very much like noise exposure (or even radiation exposure).  If you are overdosed, then take some time off.  Read a book, talk to friends, and don’t mow your lawn the next day… or better still, get someone else to mow it for you…

Even though some MP3 players are getting larger, at least we get to have more buttons.

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