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Cranked-Up Earbuds Next On Mayor Bloomberg's Health Hit List

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- After launching campaigns against the Big Gulp, "big" salt and "big" junk food, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is embarking on a new target.

He wants to stop New Yorkers from going deaf, so he's put in motion an attack on ear buds, CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday.

Now hear this … there's a new enemy of the nanny state: people who choose to listen to loud music on their favorite devices.

Bloomberg, who apparently has never met a health crusade he didn't think worthy of embarking on, is launching a campaign to warn people about the risks of losing their hearing from blasting music on their headphones.

The initiative is aimed at the iPod generation, the people who were the first to put buds directly into their ears.

Officials say an iPod reaches 115 decibels at maximum volume. Doctors say sound has to be below 85 decibels to be safe.

One doctor told CBS 2's Kramer the mayor's initiative is a good one.

"There is a real threat for noise exposure ruining hearing. This will occur gradually over time. But what you're looking at is a series of young people that may be experiencing hearing loss and the need for hearing aids at a much earlier age than any of their family members," said Dr. Jayde Steckowych of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Presbyterian Center.

"I'm seeing a whole host of young teenagers who are coming in with early signs of noise-induced hearing loss," audiologist Dr. Won Choe of ENT& Allergy told WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot. "These kids are bombarded by media."

Choe said earbuds like the ones that come with many Apple products seem to be most damaging.

"The thing is, it's hard to measure how much these kids are getting. So you want to generally keep it down below, I'd say, 70 or 80 decibels," Dr. Choe said. "The thing is, how do you measure that? Especially with these ear buds, they don't have very good sound isolation so inevitably, they're trying to drown out the background noise with increased volume."

Audiologist Voices Support For Earbud Campaign

Choe, who is not involved with the city effort, said the more expensive noise-cancelling headphones are better for the user's hearing and are recommended for those who are listening to personal music devices while commuting.

The audiologist said people standing nearby should not be able to hear what you are listening to in your headphones.

"That's just incredible amounts of noise exposure," Choe said.

Any effort to save young people's hearing is important, said the doctor.

"I support it fully," Choe said of the mayor's proposal.

Experts say hearing loss increased 30 percent among teenagers and young adults between 1988 and 2006. But not everyone is thrilled about the mayor's get-rid-of-the-ear-buds health initiative.

"I mean I appreciate being looked out for, but I also think you control the volume of these, so it's up to personal responsibility for us to take care of our own ears," said Beth Kirkpatrick of Harlem.

Kirkpatrick said her message to the mayor is simple: "Stay out of my ears," she said.

"Mayor Bloomberg should 'bud' out," another New Yorker said.

Some New Yorkers spoke with 1010 WINS about how they used their earbuds. Their comments seemed to indicate the problem may not be so rampant.

"I play them like not fully, like I put it all the way to the max and bring it down at least two times, that's it. Just enough to hear the beat. I just like it," Anthony Rivera said.

Report: Cranked-Up Earbuds Next On Bloomberg's Health Hit List

"I use it on my iPhone so I can hear clearly like the movie and stuff, but I don't really blast my headphones like that. I keep it at a medium, that way I can hear everything that's going on around me," said Julian Lawrence.

The mayor's campaign is being financed through a grant from the Fund for Public Health, the Department of Health's fund raising arm.


Meanwhile, New Yorkers are gearing up to go without their super-sized sugary beverages starting March 12.

New Yorkers Getting Ready For Soda Ban

The new regulation puts a 16-ounce limit on sugary drinks sold at city restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts and applies to both bottled and fountain drinks.

Guides about the new rules were being handed out at Dunkin' Donuts locations on Wednesday.

Guide To New Rules On Sugary Beverages
Guide To New Rules On Sugary Beverages (credit: Alex Silverman / WCBS 880)

"I don't understand it really," said a woman named Sandy at one on Sixth Avenue upon receiving her guide. "I got a small coffee now, they just put sugar in for me. If I get a large one, they can't put it in for me. That's dumb."

At Movie World in Little Neck, Queens, Russell Evanson said the small size cup he sells is now too big and will have to find cups that are 16-ounces.

"I've actually tried to avoid thinking about it for quite a while," he told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman. "My biggest concern with that is people actually carrying two sodas and a popcorn."

Evanson said Coca-Cola is providing them with 16-ounce bottles.

"We are just going to have to comply and live with it, but it will mean less revenue," he said.

The ban does not include grocery or convenience stores that don't serve prepared food and would not apply to diet soda, other calorie-free drinks or anything that has at least 50 percent milk or milk substitute.

A lawsuit has been filed against the proposal, with opponents arguing that the ban is an unfair burden on businesses. They say they shouldn't have to comply until the lawsuit over the matter is resolved.

In January, city officials announced that soda sellers would get a three-month grace period from fines for violating the upcoming crackdown.

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