Hearing management

29 September 2009

Health warnings for MP3 players

MP3 players could soon come with a cigarette-style health labels to warn users about risks to their hearing, if the EU's executive has its way.


MP3 players could soon come with a cigarette-style health labels to warn users about risks to their hearing if the European Union's executive has its way, officials in Brussels said.

There should be "enough information that sensible people know enough to decide" how loud and how long they play music for, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva told journalists in Brussels.

According to an EU study released in late 2008, up to 10 million people in Europe risk going deaf because they listen to very loud music on their portable music players too often.

"Often" in this context means for more than an hour per day over a five-year period. The commission has therefore asked MP3 manufacturers to come up with ways of limiting the damage.

"We want to put the technical solutions in place to reduce the risk as much as possible," Kuneva said.

Lower volume set as default
One option would be to bring in new laws making manufacturers set a lower volume as the default setting of their product, but allowing the user to override it if they wanted.

But Bridget Cosgrave, head of industry group Digital Europe, said that manufacturers would oppose any attempt to impose volume limits which go beyond the current law in EU member states.

Users have to be able to listen to their music at the maximum volume "in order to allow their personal engagement," she said.

The second option would therefore be to find some way of warning the user that they are putting their hearing at risk, such as a message displayed on the player's screen, Kuneva said.

The commission expects a response from industry sometime in the next two years, she said. – (Sapa, September 2009)

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Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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