Young people who listen to personal music players for several hours a day at high volume could imperil their hearing, an expert warns.

Peter Rabinowitz, professor at Yale University School of Medicine, says music devices like the MP3 players can generate levels of sound in excess of 120 decibels, almost as intense as a jet engine, especially when used with earphones that insert into the ear canal.

The use of these devices is high in young people – more than 90 percent in surveys from Europe and the US – and “has grown faster than our ability to assess their potential health consequences,” he writes.

However, evidence that music players are causing hearing loss in young people is mixed, suggesting that the true effects may only now be starting to be detectable, says the author.

Other health effects may also need to be considered. For example, some studies have shown that use of personal music players can interfere with concentration and performance while driving, in a similar way to mobile phones.

Rabinowitz believes that the importance of hearing loss as a public health problem makes it reasonable to encourage patients of all ages to promote “hearing health” through avoidance of excessive noise exposure, a Yale release says.

“Personal music players provide a reminder that our hunger for new technology should be accompanied by equally vigorous efforts to understand and manage the health consequences of changing lifestyles,” he concludes.

The write-up was published in the British Medical Journal.