The truthiness of iPod ear: The Peter Townshend loud iPod story is going mainstream in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal. First, let me fully and enthusiastically endorse the common sense notion that it is very likely to be of great harm to one’s hearing to blast one’s iPod into one’s ears. (It couldn’t have been only my Mom who was yelling, “turn down that racket or you’ll go deaf” 35 years ago when the racket was Peter Townshend’s music.)
However, the article in tomorrow’s Journal is in need of a work-over by the WSJ’s “Numbers Guy.” For example, the reporter writes the following:
Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod, and other players by iRiver, Sony and SanDisk — can hold thousands of songs and have longer-lasting batteries than older players. As a result, people are listening to the devices for much longer periods of time.
Say what? The longer-lasting battery claim is easily debunked by anyone who has ever used an iPod. But where could that other statistic possibly come from — the one about “people are listening to devices for longer periods of time” because they have more songs on them. Granted, that sounds logical, but with all the research about people’s media consumption is there any research that shows a correlation between the number of songs one has access to with the amount of time one listens to those songs during a certain period of time? If this were true, shouldn’t the exploding number of hours people spend listening to music be a trend those Pew folks should be all over? Again, the statistic that the more songs you have, the more hours a day you listen to music, may be logical, but you don’t have to be Stephen Levitt to recognize its potential freakiness.
Again, let me say on behalf of moms and dads everywhere. As anyone who has ever had their ears ring for 24 hours after a Who concert can tell you: listening to loud music for a long period of time is not good for you. Do it long enough and you’ll very likely screw up your hearing… permanently. But what is it about iPods that makes that ageless Mom-knows-best fact of life have more “truthiness” today than it did 35 years ago?