iPods and MP3 players coupled with earphones can generate sound levels that are up to 115 decibels - way above the recommended 85 decibels recommended by hearing experts. Listening to music at these sound levels can damage the ears, sometimes permanently.

An estimated 28 million people living in the U.S. suffer from some degree of hearing loss while 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels daily, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that an estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6-19 years (approximately 5.2 million) have suffered hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise.

"Unfortunately, children who suffer noise-induced hearing loss from these devices are risking permanent damage that will affect them as adults and for their entire lives," says Dr. Sancak Yuksel, otorhinolaryngologist, Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital,

People attending rock concerts are at an increased risk of suffering from hearing loss as being exposed to sound levels exceeding 115 decibels for more than an hour at a stretch can damage the in the inner ear. Yuksel said that wearing ear plugs that cut out some of the noise can prevent hearing loss.

"Aside from the intensity of the sound or a noise, my concern is how long the person is exposed to that sound or noise," said Yuksel who is also an assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. Common signs of hearing loss include ringing in ears, inability to follow conversation in large gathering, increasing volume of TV or radio etc.

Tips to prevent hearing loss

  • Take frequent breaks when listening to loud music. This will help the ear recover.
  • Use sound-limiting controls.
  • Use loose-fitting earphones.
  • Adjust volume of your music player (MP3 or IPod) in a quiet environment.
  • Sit at least ten feet away from the speakers. The farther you sit from the speakers, the better it is for your ears, saysMedline Plus.

More information on Noise Induced Hearing Loss can be found here.