Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2010 – page 5

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MP3 players face noise limits recommended by EU

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


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Fatal accidents happen due to hearing loud music with headphones

There are ever more reports of people being severely wounded or fatally hit because they didn’t hear warning sounds and signals due to listening to loud music or other programmes with headsets. Here are excerpts from some accounts of such fatalities.

Jogger killed by plane while running on beach

A 38-year-old Georgia man was struck from behind and killed when a small plane made an emergency landing on a Hilton Island (South Carolina) beach on March 15. He had been jogging while listening to his iPod—probably unaware that the plane was bearing down on him, witnesses and officials said. The plane was making very little sound as its engine had failed.

—The Vancouver Sun

Fatal train accident

A 19-year-old Kamloops man was struck by a train. It was a fateful decision to crank up the volume on an MP3 player his friend loaned him for the walk home after an evening of drinking at a local bar.


Police said he had buds in his ears and was hit by a CP Rail train that was unable to stop in time. “He was listening to his music too loud. He was all about listening to loud music. I have a sub (car stereo speaker component) in my car and he has one. We were all about loud music,” said the friend who lent him the MP3 player.

—Canwest News Service

Dangerous walk over the railway tracks

By Monika Hillemacher
During a 12-months period last year in the State of Hessen, Germany, 14 people lost their lives when illegally walking on or crossing over railroad tracks. The latest victim is a 34-year-old man whose dead body was found by the tracks of the Main-Weser line in Frankfurt. Police consider cell-phones and MP3 players to be risk factors, [along with] the trains having become quieter.

—Darmstaedter Echo

Music Addiction Expands

Murray Hill wrote in Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix in January, “Recently I barbecued some steaks in the middle of a snowstorm,” as he described specially designed outdoor speakers he had installed in his yard. “My neighbours were shaking their heads for two reasons: One, I was cooking outside in a snowstorm; and two, I was listening to music outside during a blizzard,” he wrote.

Our member, Kit D., e-mailed him on the question he posed in his article, “But if you have speakers that will keep you entertained in a storm, why not?” Kit explained to him that he was polluting the environment and imposing unwanted sound on others.

Mr. Hill’s excuse was that he didn’t intend to promote cranking it up outdoors and the attention was more due to him cooking in the snow than playing music.

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