I love my ears
I started out in life as a classical musician, and we were warned on all sides to take care of our hearing by staying out of rock concerts and wearing ear protection when around machinery. We protected our ears like ballet dancers protect their leg muscles. "Tiny little hairs in your ear are all that lies between you and hearing aids," we were told, "Don't blast them off."
The relatively quieter vocation of ministry reinforced this message, as I was aware of older congregants getting hearing aids and confiding that they were better than not hearing, but only by a hair. I use noise canceling headphones like I use sunscreen...for basic body care.
So I was chagrined to realize that my cute little ipod had damaged my ears. It was an accident. I was trying to walk and increase the pace of the music (something an MP3 player can do without changing the pitch of the music), and somehow, I was turning up the volume bit by bit. Then I walked for at least another half hour without even realizing how loud my music was. My ears have not been quite the same since.
My son tells me that earbud type earphones, which sit in the ear canal, are more likely to damage ears than earphones that stay outside the ear. Makes sense. And he also tells me that better quality, more expensive earphones are less likely to damage hearing because one is less likely to need to turn them up. (So we go out and buy new, better earphones for him, too. The kid knows his mom!)
I have also discovered that the duration of loud sounds is just as important as the loudness, and that the reason audiologists are alarmed about ipods etc. is not just that they are played too loud, but that they are played for hours on end. OK. The ipod is for exercise only.
The moral of the story: You only have so many little hairs in your ears, and no miracle of modern science can replace them adequately. Be Careful!