Deaths Involving Headphone-Wearing Pedestrians Have Tripled Since 2004

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Forget about the damage that headphones have on hearing.

Because according to a new study, there’s another problem: sudden and irreversible death.  In fact, the number of deaths and fatal accidents involving headphone-wearing pedestrians has tripled over the past few years, according to the just-published finding.  These accidents, frequently sudden and fatal, typically involve young, 20-something males walking around urban areas.

We’re not talking about bump-ins or near-misses, of which there are many.  These are fatalities or extreme injuries, which multiplied from roughly 16 in 2004 in the US to 47 in 2011.  In total, the research group found 116 documented cases of death and serious injury since 2004, with 70 percent of serious cases ending in death.

Cars are a typical problem, though strangely, more than half of the incidents involved people getting run down by trains – that is, despite blaring horns and other warnings in many cases.  The music was simply blaring that loudly, often with over-the-ear enclosures.

This is where you don’t really need a PhD, because drowning headphones tend to create a disconnection from the world.  Researchers called it ‘inattentional blindness,’ while noting that hearing – not just sight – plays a critical role in assessing external stimuli and avoiding trouble.

The study was conducted by the online journal Injury Prevention, with Richard Lichenstein of the University of Maryland leading the effort.   The researchers combed through a number of sources to create the estimate, including the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google News archives and Westlaw.