Ergonomic Nightmare of the Week: iPod

I would like to preface this post by saying, “I love my iPod.”  You probably do too, and want to kill me for naming it ergonomic nightmare of the week.  But the things we love and use most are the things of which we should be most careful, ergonomically speaking.

Loud music and portable electronics are nothing new…at least, not that new.  Almost limitless hours of booming audio and crystal clear video neatly packaged in a sleek, futuristic portable gadget IS something new.


Unfortunately, addiction to this sexy device comes with a price:

Hearing Loss:

The sound produced by an iPod can exceed 115 decibels, a volume which is dangerous to be exposed to for more than 28 seconds.

A study by the National Acoustic Laboratories in Australia last year found that a quarter of people surveyed were listening to music on headphones at potentially dangerous levels.

The length of time you listen to your iPod isn’t a problem as long as the volume is turned down. However, even listening at 85 decibels – the level above which normal conversation is difficult – is risky.

iPod Thumb:

Ipod thumb is said to be caused by the hand movements that are required to work the wheel in order to navigate the long lists of songs and artists.

According to Carl Irwin, from the British Chiropractic Association, “the action needed to move the wheel on an iPod is totally unnatural and effectively separates the joint in the thumb every time you use it.”

Eye Strain and other Pain:

Professor Peter McCluskey, an ophthalmologist at the University of NSW and Liverpool Hospital, “there’s reasonable evidence that looking at a small, close target increases your likelihood of developing ocular symptoms – those of eye strain, headaches, dryness of eyes and blurry vision.”

“Focusing on a small screen for an extended length of time is a possible cause of the increasing number of shortsighted children and teenagers, he adds.”


You have to look at the device when you’re using it and the visual distraction that occurs is likely to be greater than when you’re answering or dialling a mobile phone.

iPods can also distract other road users like pedestrians and cyclists, says Dr Suzanne McEvoy, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s George Institute for International Health.