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Hearing management

Updated 13 December 2017

MP3 players put pedestrians at risk

Folks who walk to work or school while listening to music via headphones may want to unplug, with a new US study finding injuries to this group of people tripling since 2004.

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Folks who walk to work or school while listening to music via headphones may want to unplug, with a new US study finding injuries to this group of people tripling since 2004.

The reason, University of Maryland researchers say, is that use of iPods and other MP3 players makes people much less aware of their environment, including oncoming traffic.

"MP3 usage is common in young adults and teenagers and we found that people wearing headphones are at risk of getting hit and having injury or death," said lead researcher Dr Richard Lichenstein, an associate professor of paediatrics in Paediatric Emergency Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Children's Hospital.

"These are pedestrians getting hit by cars, trains, trucks, vans, buses and things like that," he said. "About 70% of the injuries were fatal and more than 50% of the victims were hit by trains."

The report was published in an online edition of Injury Prevention.

The study

For the study, Lichenstein's team used the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Google to find data on deaths and injuries among pedestrians wearing headphones from January 2004 through June 2011.

During this time, they found 116 such events reported. In 2004-05 just 16 such cases were noted, but that rate rose nearly three-fold to 47 during 2010-2011, the researchers report.

About two-thirds of victims were under 30 years of age, and the most common accident (55%) was being hit by a train. Most such accidents happened in cities, with only 12% occurring in rural areas.

In 70% of cases the accident proved fatal, and in three out of four, bystanders had actually seen the victim wearing headphones just prior to the accident. The sound coming from those headphones likely masked outside noise, because in 29% of the accidents, horns or sirens had been sounded just before the victim was hit.

Inattentional blindness

"People wearing headphones need to be conscious of the outside environment and risk of moving vehicles, because not only are you distracted by the music, but also the sounds of traffic or horns or sirens are blocked," Lichenstein said. Experts label this type of distraction "inattentional blindness."

Commenting on the study, Dr Carl Schulman, director of Injury Prevention Education at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, pointed to an earlier study suggesting that any form of impaired hearing can raise a person's injury risk.

In a 1995 New Zealand study involving almost 200 children, those with (natural) hearing problems had an increased risk of being hit by a car, compared with children with normal hearing, Schulman noted.

This is similar to having one's hearing intentionally blocked by music coming from headphones, so it is not surprising that the new study saw a similar pattern among people plugged into MP3 players, Schulman said.

Lichenstein said the way to reduce the risk is simple. "Be cognizant of the environment. Know there is risk out there. It's not a great idea to be distracted and it's not a great idea to shut out those sounds that may help you live another day," he said.


(Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)

 

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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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