With MP3 players likely to be the number one Christmas present under the tree later this week scientists are warning that ear buds could damage your hearing.

The warning comes from Dean Garstecki, a Northwestern University audiologist, who warns that these ear buds might increase the risk of hearing loss.

Garstecki says that ear buds associated with modern devices the likes of iPods, MP3 players, etc., boost sound signals by as much as 6 to 9 decibels, and are likely to result in loss of hearing.

Six to 9 decibles might not sound like much of a difference but that's about the difference between the sound of a vacuum cleaner and a motorcycle.

According to Garstecki, an increasing number of young people are now experiencing the kind of hearing loss found in aging adults, which can be traced back to their music habits.

Students are found to listen to music at nearly 110 to 120 decibels, capable of causing hearing loss after just about an hour of listening; with ear buds placed directly in the ears, adding to the damage caused.

Garstecki also says listening constantly to certain genres of music may increase the likelihood of hearing loss.

“Rap music and rock music tend to be played at the highest signal output levels. Jazz and classical music and country music are often played at a lower output level”, said Garstecki.

Garstecki has some advice for parents who may be purchasing MP3 players for their children as Christmas gifts:

“Limit the amount of time it's used each day to approximately an hour. Maybe a little more, and set the volume wheel on the iPod at about a level of six or below.