EU proposes volume limit on iPods, iPhones

A new proposal from the European Commission would see lower default volume limits placed on portable music players and smartphones such as the iPod and iPhone. The proposal is based on a study by the EU’s Scientific Committee published in October 2008, which found that listening that headphones at volumes of more than 89 decibels with regularity could have detrimental effects on hearing. BBC News reports that the Commission is recommending a limit of 80 decibels, at which volume the study recommended exposure be limited to 40 hours a week. The proposals could take some time before becoming standard practice and would be voluntary among manufacturers; users would also be able to override the limit at their own risk.

“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.”

  1. I thought European iPods already had volume caps- I remember reading instructions on how to hack past them. When did the caps get removed?

  2. Simply more of the communistic EU ruling peoples lives and other peoples companies.
    If a person doesn’t know the dangers of listening to music at high volumes, whether it be through headphones, in the car, or at concerts, they’re sorely uneducated.

  3. Unfortunately the limit is still in place. I bought a new iPod 3 months ago to replace an old model I bought from the US, the difference is quite amazing. Listening to a podcast on the bus is pretty near imposible now. Rediculous nannying.

  4. “Simply more of the communistic EU ruling…”

    There isn’t anything remotely communist about safety regulations. If you can find a link between a political philosophy where the state is supposed to hold all property communal so that products of the people’s labor can be shared according to need (regardless of the historical tendency toward corruption and concentration of power AND goods in the hands of a few) and governmental safety regulations, you have quite an imagination. Are drinking ages, seatbelt laws, food handling laws, ingredient labels, requirements for building permits, background checks to buy firearms, requirements that doctors pass boards, etc. also communist? Surely they must be according to political geniuses like you…

    That rant against ignorance aside, these regulations are problematic because they don’t actually do what they’re supposed to do. They assume that there is a 1:1 link between the output of the iPod or other device’s headphone jack and the volume presented to someone’s ear, and there isn’t. The same output cap that makes for a perfectly reasonable, safe listening experience with one headphone is barely audible at max volume with another, and quite dangerous with yet another. Unless the EU also intends to standardize the impedance and sensitivity of all headphones sold in the EU, these regs will fail to do more than annoy a sizable amount of consumers who find their high impedance headphones unusable without additional amplification.

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