Hearing Loss: Walkman Generation Pays The Ultimate Price

Hearing Loss
via: Wikipedia

If you haven't heard (pun intended), there are over a billion people are at risk for hearing loss today. That's BILLION with a “B”. And while this may be music to the hearing (loss) industry's ears, it's a huge health issue headed our way at some point in our lives.

In the late 70's, Sony launched a music-game-changer that allowed people to listen to their favorite cassette tapes on-the-go.  The Sony Walkman led to a generational shift in the way we consumed music, and subsequently pioneered the mobility-based (consumer) society that we live in today.


The Walkman Effect

The Walkman Effect refers to the way music listened to via headphones allows the user to gain more control over their environment. It was coined by International Research Center for Japanese Studies Professor Shuhei Hosokawa in an article of the same name published in Popular Music in 1984. While the term was named after the dominant portable music technology of the time, the Sony Walkman, it applies to all such devices and has been cited numerous times to refer to more current products such as the Apple iPod. – Wikipedia

Since the first Walkman was marketed in 1979, many iterations followed.  A few of those include; the CD Walkman (known as the Discman), the Video Walkman, the MiniDisc Walkman, the Video Walkman, and the (Walkman) MP3 Player.  Today of course, Apple is the dominant player in this space with their ubiquitous iPod and iPhone owning the market.

hearing loss

37 Years of Loud (and Localized) Music

If you're following the math here, we've been addicted to headphones for 37 years! (Ya I know that number threw me for a loop too.) The effect of loud and localized music over time has proven damaging to our health.


StonyBrook School of Medicine notes that “Headphones and earphones appear to be the most damaging. Since noise-induced hearing loss is a result of intensity (loudness) and duration of exposure, these devices may be capable of inducing a permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss — especially if they are used at a volume setting of four or above for extended periods.”

Exposure to noise pollution, especially for younger people, has gone from huge boom boxes and car stereo speakers to sound delivered directly into the ear through headphones or earphones. – Stony Brook School of Medicine

hearing loss due to headphone use

Hearing Loss

The consequences are great.  As we noted back in March of last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes hearing loss as a major health epidemic and they're watching this issue closely.  In February of 2015 they issued a press release which voiced their concerns: “Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events.”

One thing's for sure, if we don't do something to curb our appetite for loud/localized music soon… Apple's new blockbuster product might just be a hearing aid. I can see it now – The iHear, coming to a Mac Store near you!


  1. I am suffering from hearing loss problem a long time perion but after reading your article I feel that it is easy to come out from this disability. Thanks for publishing your article.

  2. Thanks for publishing blog aobut hearing aids, I feel good after reading your blog. Publish this type article again in future.

  3. Doesn’t it really depend on the quality of headphones you use? I think that it is easy to say that there are bad headphones that damage your hearing. Surely, however, there must be a way to prevent hearing loss while using headphones. Do you have an other tips about hearing loss?

    1. As you might agree Johnny, it’s about volume over time (in my opinion). I was a part of the walkman generation, and we’d have music blaring in our ears constantly. Amazingly, this phenomena has only proliferated.

    2. Trust me I am 100% walking proof, listening to music through either in the ear, over the ear, covering the whole ear no matter what you will get hearing loss of some sort in your lifetime. Headphones at any volume will damage your ears. Today’s technology is infinitely better then what came out back in 79′. 20 years ago was better. But oh man to be one of the first on the block to have one. “Walkman Generation Pays The Ultimate Price”. 6 words I have used to describe myself. YES, I DID!!!!!!! I was the one who got one first, by luck or what have you. My father went to Japan back in the late 70’s I think it was actually 78′ because I remember no one knowing about it, and well brought me home this device with small headphones and a radio no bigger than a cassette tape. I could not believe it SONY bombed with BETA about 2 years before; here VHS ruled the land and maybe they were cautious to bring out a new Technology like this. Japan had been making great leaps back then in Technology as a whole. Anyways I am living proof loud music played for long duration will lead to hearing loss. 39 years, 30 of those years played loud 4-7 days a week. Concerts, Nightclubs, LOUDER THE BETTER…. so Walkman Generation Pays The Ultimate Price” yes we did!!!! YES I DID

  4. Thank you for reminding everyone of the consequences of listening to music too loud. My dad has hearing loss and I have never seen him listen to any music with headphones. I should be more careful!

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