iPods to be fitted with noise limiters under new EU rules
Posted Sep 29 2009 10:38pm
Mobile phones and iPods that blast out music at ear-shattering levels are having their volumes turned down. The news that personal music players will be fitted with noise limiting controls will delight the parents of teenagers and anyone who likes to enjoy a train journey in peace.
MP3 players such as iPods will have to be made with built-in limiters that restrict their decibel level, in a move designed to protect children and teenagers.
Two-thirds of users have the volume set too high, surveys show.
The rules, to be announced next week by the EU, are intended to prevent millions going deaf and were prompted by repeated scientific studies revealing the danger of listening to blaring music.
A safe level is below 80-85 decibels, according to campaigners, but some players blast out songs at up to 120 decibels.
That is the same volume as an aeroplane taking off - and is very damaging because earphones direct the noise straight into the ear.
Youngsters are particularly vulnerable because they do not think about the health risks, campaigners say. Depending on the length of the listening session, any level over 85 decibels can produce hearing loss over a period of time.
Volumes of 120 decibels or more can have long-term effects even if the listener is only subjected to it once. One in ten users may be at risk of permanent hearing loss - up to 10million across Europe, according to a report last year by the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks.
Meglena Kuneva, the European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, will unveil an EU proposal on Tuesday for all companies making personal music devices.
There is no date yet fixed for the measure to come into force because setting industry standards would take some time, an EU spokesman said.
MP3 players and music-playing phones will have to have a builtin default level of 80-85 decibels. Adults will be able to override this but will be warned of the health consequences if they do. Apple, which makes the iPod, declined to comment but pointed out that its website carries a warning about sound levels.
RNID has worked with the EU on the rules. It welcomed the move as a significant step towards safeguarding the hearing of millions.