Gym Workouts and iPod Volume

For so many of us, cranking up the volume on our iPods when we are at the gym is second nature. While the loud music might be great to pump up our energy and keep our workout focused, a recent study says that we may actually be doing ourselves a disservice.

According to Bill Hodgetts, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of speech pathology and audiology at the University of Alberta, cranking up the volume in order to tune out all the clanking and groaning at the gym puts people at increased risk for hearing loss.

His study, published in the International Journal of Audiology, looked at 24 people aged 18 to 30 who regularly exercise while listening to iPods. What he found was that the study participants listened to music at an average of 92 decibels during their workouts, well above safe listening levels.

"People generally listen to music at reasonable levels of volume, but we've found that exercising, mainly because of the background noise, can influence people to turn up the volume to potentially unsafe levels for the ear," explains Hodgetts.

But Hodgetts says it isn't the listening level alone that's risky. It's also how long a person listens at that level.

Hodgetts found that almost half of his study participants listened for a length of time during exercise that put them at risk for hearing loss.

What You Can Do

Does this mean you should leave your iPod at home the next time you hit the gym?

Hodgetts says 'no' and is quick to tell everyone that his study isn't a cause for alarm: "Don't stop exercising. Don't stop listening to your iPod. If listening to music helps you exercise, keep doing it."

The solution is simple, he says: "Get better earphones, those that 'seal' the ear canal, acting as an earplug and thus reducing background noise."

In other words, the earbuds that come standard with iPods allow in too much background noise. And so, if you get a set of headphones that seal the ear canal, then you immediately cut out the background noise and as a result, can listen to your iPod at a much safer level.

Note: If you experience any difficulty with your hearing, be sure to contact your doctor for an exam.


McGinn, D. Ears Overworked by iPods at the Gym. Globe and Mail. Accessed March 12, 2010.

Going to the Gym Shouldn't Be a Workout for Your Eardrums. Science Daily. Jan. 21 2010. Accessed March 12, 2010.

Hodgetts, W., Szarko, R., Rieger, J. What is the influence of background noise and exercise on the listening levels of iPod users? International Journal of Audiology. Volume 48, Issue 12 December 2009, pages 825 - 832.

Pumping it Up Too Much. Accesed March 12, 2010.

Wang, L. Pumping it Up Too Much: iPods May be Set to Excessive Volumes During Exercise. University of Alberta, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. Jan. 22, 2010. Accessed March 12, 2010.