I always objected to the bud earpieces on a comfort level - I just could not get those little things in my ears comfortably. Looks like I dodged a bullet. Most people listen to those buds with the volume so loud I can hear them from a few feet away. In my youth, I always sprang for the huge DJ headsets, which felt like they made sound easier on the ear. I used to listen to music pretty loudly, despite my parents telling me I was killing my ears. Somehow, those warnings never felt very finite - I might have a slight buzzing in my ears after an hour or two of listening, but it always went away. Even though I have since stopped pounding the music into my ears, most of the damage is probably done - at least I never stuck those buds in my ears. I always thought those smoker's lung vs. healthy lung ads were particularly convincing, so perhaps these images will be convincing to a few (c/o my CogSci class):
The first image is pristine, healthy cochlear cilia, or in simple terms, "the hairs in your inner ear that interpret sound for your brain." The second image is cochlear cilia with mild-moderate damage, and the third image is cochlear cilia with a lot of damage. Unlike lungs, which take a long time to recover but do to a certain degree, damage to cochlear cilia is PERMANENT. I seriously expect half the people in my generation to have significant hearing loss by the time they are 40 years old on account of the mp3 player/bud headset craze. Do your ears a favor - if you want to listen to music for more than half of your lifespan, turn down the volume.