Hearing management

Updated 11 December 2017

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.

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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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Hearing Expert

Rene Hornby has been the owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. AuD degree obtained in 2013 at AT Still University Health Science Depart-ment, Arizona. Masters in Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria, 2003. Remedial Teaching Diploma at Rand University, 1996. Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, 1993. Owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. Educating the community regarding early identification of hearing problems and screening of new-borns. Providing assistance and services at retirement homes. Part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. External examiner at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. Presenter at conferences and seminars.

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