Friday, June 29, 2012

Are your earbuds putting you at risk?

We have all seen them, and most of us even own a pair or two.  They are the little white earbuds that come with all Apple products.  Whether it's an ipod, ipad, iphone, or nano, included is the famous white earbuds.

What's wrong with these, you say?  At first glance they seem quite innocuous.  The truth, however, is that if they are used in certain circumstances, they can put you in real danger.  It's obvious to most people that listening to music through earbuds while performing various activities out in the world can be dangerous, yet many continue to do so at their own peril.  

There are many documented occurrences of people being hit by various vehicles while out walking, jogging, bicycling, etc.  There is even one fatal accident that happened in Canada, where an extremely unfortunate man was going to check his mail while listening to music through his earbuds.  On his way, a malfunctioning helicopter fell out of the sky and landed on him.  It's impossible to say for sure that if he wasn't listening to music through earbuds, he would have heard a sputtering helicopter coming straight for him.  It seems logical, however, to think that if he had been able to hear his surroundings, he may have had a fighting chance to try to run out of the way of disaster.

In another case, a woman was jogging along a path that is used by walkers, runners, bicyclists, skaters, etc.  She was listening to her music, and not able to hear  her surroundings.  As a bicyclist attempted to pass her, she made a quick turn.  The force of the accident proved to be fatal.  Again, we don't know for certain whether she could have avoided this if she could have heard her surroundings, but it does seem logical.

A recent study by the University of Maryland found that the number of reported accidents involving pedestrians wearing earbuds, and being hit by vehicles has tripled over the last 6 years, with about 75% of those accidents resulting in death.

Although these are alarming statistics and extreme examples, they definitely highlight the fact that this is a real danger.  Think about how many more accidents occur daily throughout the world that don't result in a fatality, and are not reported.  These numbers could be enormous.

There seems to be a trend in the technology of earbuds that could exacerbate this situation even further.  Several companies have developed and promoted earbuds that are better at staying in the ear canal.  Others have even added improved "sound cancellation" technology, and even made them louder and with more bass.  While this new technology may make one's music sound louder and clearer, It is safe to say that they will also be even more dangerous if used while performing any activities.

One company is dedicated to making the use of earbuds much safer and more enjoyable: HearBudz.  They designed a simple and unique solution to this problem.  HearBudz are a small attachment that clips right onto your existing Apple earbuds and re-positions them so you can hear your music and the world around you at the same time.  They securely and comfortably move the speaker to just outside of the ear canal.  They are fully adjustable, allowing the user to control just how much outside noise they want at any given time.  They are lightweight and flexible, and fit just about anyone, from kids to adults.

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