Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: A budding problem

It is a condition that affects thousands of people every day, yet few seek a cure: When people insert ear bud headphones for their portable music players, they tune out to the outside world. What’s more, recent studies show that a user’s long-term hearing is put at risk after prolonged ear bud use, due to the ear buds’ close proximity to the eardrum and poor sound insulation. It’s just another reason to go sans-iPod and keep your wits about you on the street.
The increased popularity of ear bud headphones can be attributed to the explosion of digital music players like the Apple iPod over the past decade. These headphones are placed inside the ear, but outside the ear canal. Inexpensive and small, their popularity with mp3 players can be attributed to their portability. These players are easier to use than ever.
But this ease of use can also be a curse. The convenience of plug-and-play music devices has led users to listen to music more’ often. The use of ear buds in public is at an all-time high, and so are the consequences of those who find themselves in ‘iPod oblivion.’ The problems occur when users turn the volume up on the player to combat the ear buds’ letting in of outside noise. This obliviousness also increases users’ risk of being hit by a car, robbed or assaulted while they are distracted, according to a Sept. 29 reported on the Boston University Medical Center public safety department’s website.
Nationwide, case after case of pedestrian death by collision has been attributed to the pedestrian’s lack of awareness due to headphone use. Several deaths over the course of one month in a Brooklyn, N.Y. district even prompted a New York state senator to propose in February 2007 that the state prohibit the use of portable music and sound devices while crossing city streets a fineable offense. A rash of on-campus car accidents involving pedestrians in Spring 2007 caused BUPD to urge students to avoid distractions while crossing streets, including portable music players.
Calling for students to give up their tunes on their daily commute to class may be asking a lot. We have become attached to our music, and it certainly helps make the trip go by quicker. But students can certainly be smart about the issue. When there is background noise interfering with a song, don’t turn the volume up; stay alert and in tune with what is creating the noise. Keeping the volume low will help save one’s hearing in the long term, and in the short term, will keep one safe and alert on the busy streets of Boston.

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