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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Determining preferred listening levels of a personal listening device in teenagers and adults in real-life environments using real-ear measures Lane, Cheryl Nicole


The aim for the current study was to determine whether the decibels (dB) of the Preferred Listening Levels (PLLs) for Personal Listening Devices (PLDs), as set by typical users in their daily acoustic environments, could potentially damage hearing. The PLDs of interest in this study were Apple iPods and MPEG Layer-3 audio (IVIP3) players. PLLs were determined by measuring real-ear levels at listeners’ reported typical listening levels for their own chosen musical stimuli. This design provided a clearer picture of subjects’ everyday listening experiences than previous research, as listeners may choose different PLLs for their own musical choices and everyday environments. These results could be used to increase public awareness of the real-world potential for hearing loss resulting from the use of PLDs, and to promote the adoption of guidelines to ensure a safe daily noise dose for consumers of recreational music. Seven male and six female PLD users with normal hearing kept a log of their average listening volumes, including listening durations at these levels, in three common listening environments (quiet, moderate, and public transit). The Fonix 7000 real-ear system was used to take the maximum and average measurements of the stimuli in the real ear. The resulting SPL value at the eardrum for the stimuli and the average listening duration for each environment were used to assess whether each subject was potentially damaging their hearing as a result of PLD use. We hypothesized that the average listening volumes and durations some subjects chose in real-life noisy situations would be sufficient to damage hearing. Specifically, we predicted that the Time Weighted Average Noise (TWAN) dose would be exceeded by some subjects. This prediction was only supported by the results for maximum (peak) dB (A) values, as one participant was exceeding the noise dose for maximum (peak) curves in noisy environments. However, this prediction was not supported by the results for average dB (A) values, which give a more accurate picture of participants’ PLLs, as no participants were exceeding the noise dose for average curves in any environment. In conclusion, participants exhibited more conservative PLD listening behaviours than expected.

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