EU to set decibel limit for all MP3 players


14 Dec 2009

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A mandate on Europe-wide safe MP3 listening levels proposed back in September looks set to go ahead as the European Commission gets ready to advise device manufacturers on a safe default level of 85 decibels.

This suggested level will be default but consumers will be able to change it to a maximum of 100 decibels instead of the 120 limit that several MP3 players on the market currently go to.

As reported by the BBC, a two-month consultation with EU standardisation bodies will kick off in January with a definitive result expected before March.

Hearing risk

"It’s 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 back in September.

"And 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,” she added.

Stephen Russell from the European consumer lobby ANEC told the BBC1 Politics Show that while a volume of 115 decibels and beyond is considered unsafe, with EU health and safety legislation advising that workers should not be exposed to this for more than 30 seconds, several MP3 players are capable of playing this volume and as a result up to 10 million people are at risk of losing their hearing in the next five years.

By Marie Boran

Photo: The European Commission is to advise MP3 player manufacturers on a safe default volume level of 85 decibels.

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