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Audio Compression: Hazardous to Your Health?

Found on boing boing, a story linking to a paper describing potential hazardous effects of listening to compressed audio:

From the view of neuronomy it is therefore to classify, although not as acutely dangerous, at least as very precarious that a wider and wider spreading audio transmission technology for data reduction just systematically removes those spectral sound portions at the auditory threshold, on those normally the hearing processor fields of our brain decide whether they shall be perceived or filtered out, because so the signal for their self calibration is missing, whereby at longer term a maladjustment of the hearing processor fields can threaten. Possible consequences of intensive consumption of datareduced audio material could therefore include ear noises (tinitus), a general degradation of the perception of quiet sounds, as well as a worsened timbre perception (a so-called "tin ear"), which would make the human of the cyberage even more insensitive than he already yet has become by the continuous mass media infotrash bombardment he is exposed to. Actually it is still unclear whether the consequences of such maladjustments are only temporary (similarly like seeing the world in green/ red discoloured after taking off red/ green 3D glasses) or if the continuous consumption of neuroacoustically datareduced sounds can lead to long lasting or even permanent damage.
The paper is marred by a significant flaw: the author fails to produce any evidence whatsoever for the theory. This is all speculation at this point.

Having said that, this is a question I asked of colleagues when I worked at QDesign, a company that had developed its own proprietary audio codec, QDX. The digital audio industry should fund research into this right away. If no evidence is found to support theories of hearing damage, then all is well. If, however, evidence is found, then best to get in front of the issue rather than react to it.

This brings up an obvious question: could long-term viewing of compressed video damage our vision? Anyone who currently watches television via digital cable or mini-satellite dish, or who watches HDTV or another digitally encoded standard, is watching compressed video. That translates into tens of hours per week for tens or even hundreds of millions of people around the world. Are we sure it won't have a long-term effect on how we see?

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