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29.09.2009 Technology

Music player noise limit planned

By Daily Guide

Train and bus passengers keen not to share the beat of fellow travellers' portable music devices might be happier to hear about a new plan from the EU.

A maximum noise default setting will be set on new portable music players, the European Commission has suggested.

But the standard decibel setting could be overridden by music fans still keen to turn up the volume.

The proposal came after research claimed that one in 10 users could suffer permanent hearing loss.

Scientists said those who listened at high volume for more than one hour per day over five years risked permanent harm. Between 50 million and 100 million people may be listening to portable music players on a daily basis, they found.

Existing EU standards currently prescribe no maximum sound limit nor require any specific volume labelling on devices.

The new proposals suggest that a default volume is set on all personal music players and mobile phones with a music playing function manufactured in the future. The proposals could take some months before becoming standard practice and would be voluntary among manufacturers.

The Commission said that at 80 decibels, exposure should be limited to 40 hours a week. At 89 decibels, exposure should not exceed five hours a week.

"It is easy to push up the sound levels on your mp3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport," said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

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

"These standards make small technical changes to players so that by default, normal use is safe. If consumers chose to override the default settings they can, but there will be clear warnings so they know the risks they are taking."