ANN CAHILL: 10 million people in danger of deafness from music players

REMINISCENT of the refrain shouted by parents everywhere, makers of personal music players have been told by the European Commission to turn it down, as research says up to 10 million people in Europe are in danger of going deaf.

The EU wants the volume setting on music players such as MP3s to be set at a safe level automatically when users turn them on. This would be 80 decibels, louder than normal conversation which is 60 decibels.

If listeners want them any higher, they will have to adjust the controls but not before they receive a warning telling them they are risking their hearing.

EU consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva said it’s too easy to turn up the sound to damagingly loud levels, especially on streets or public transport.

“The evidence is that young people particularly who are listening to music at high volumes for hours each week have no idea they are putting their hearing at risk. It can take years for the damage to show, but by then it is simply too late.”

DigitalEurope, representing the digital technology industry, has agreed to work to produce a new set of standards.

But Bridget Cosgrave, director general of Digital Europe, said the standard must become global otherwise their products will simply be replaced by those coming from countries that do not apply the same rules.

She added that most hearing damage occurs in peoples’ workplaces or at nightclubs or concerts.

The new safe default setting on personal music players and mobile phones with a music function will come into force for all new equipment within two years.

Safe use also depends on for how long people are exposed to loud sounds at 80 decibels it should be limited to 40 hours a week, and at 89 decibels, it should be for no longer than five hours a week.

If this is exceeded over a five year period, hearing can be permanently damaged.


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