The European Commission is calling for a suggested maximum volume to be set on MP3 players, to protect users' hearing. The commission wants all MP3 players sold in the EU, including iPods, to share the same volume limits. This follows a report last year warning that up to 10 million people in the EU face permanent hearing loss from listening to loud music for prolonged periods. EU experts want the default maximum setting to be 85 decibels, according to BBC One's Politics Show. Users would be able to override this setting to reach a top limit of 100 decibels.
In January 2010, a two month consultation of all EU standardisation bodies will begin on these proposals, with a final agreement expected in the spring.
Some personal players examined in testing facilities have been found to reach 120 decibels, the equivalent of a jet taking off, and no safety default level currently applies, although manufacturers are obliged to print information about risks in the instruction manuals. Research has suggested that deafness amongst younger people is on the rise because of people's personal listening habits.
Modern personal players are seen as more dangerous than stationary players or old-fashioned cassette or disk players because they can store hours of music and are often listened to while in traffic with the volume very high to drown out outside noise.
Dr Robin Yeoh, an audiology consultant at the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, said: "More and more young people are referred to me by their GPs with tinnitus or hearing loss as a direct result to exposure to loud music. It's the sort of damage that in the old days would have come from industrial noise. The damage is permanent and will often play havoc with their employment opportunities and their personal lives."
DigitalEurope, the Brussels-based body representing the industry, agrees safety must be improved. But according to their spokesman Tony Graziano, "the solution must lie in a balance between safety and enjoyment of the product by the consumer. Eighty five decibels would not be appropriate because noise coming from traffic, engines and so on would obliterate the sound," he said.
Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who sits on the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, said: "Kids have always listened to their music loud and this is not going to stop them." He added: "You have to educate them to the risks but ultimately you have to allow personal responsibility and personal choice."
—BBC News Website