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.”