The European Commission has called for the maximum volume on MP3 players to be set at 85 decibels in order to protect the hearing of users.
The commission came up with the suggestion that all MP3 players sold in the EU, including iPods, must share the same volume limits, after a report warned that up to 10m people in the EU face permanent hearing loss from listening to loud music for prolonged periods.
AdvertisementAccording to BBC One's Politics Show, EU experts want the default maximum setting to be 85 decibels, with users still able to override the setting to reach a top limit of 100 decibels.
In January, a two-month consultation of all EU standardisation bodies will begin on these proposals, with a final agreement expected in the spring.
Some personal players examined in testing facilities have been found to reach 120 decibels, the equivalent of a jet taking off, and no safety default level currently applies, although manufacturers are obliged to print information about risks in the instruction manuals. esearch has suggested that deafness amongst younger people is on the rise because of people's personal listening habits.
Modern personal players are seen as more dangerous than stationary players or old-fashioned cassette or disk players because they can store hours of music and are often listened to while in traffic with the volume very high to drown out outside noise.
"More and more young people are referred to me by their GPs with tinnitus or hearing loss as a direct result to exposure to loud music," the BBC quoted Dr Robin Yeoh, an audiology consultant at the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, as saying.
"It's the sort of damage that in the old days would have come from industrial noise.
"The damage is permanent and will often play havoc with their employment opportunities and their personal lives," Yeoh said.
DigitalEurope, the Brussels-based body representing the industry, agrees safety must be improved.
But according to their spokesman Tony Graziano, "the solution must lie in a balance between safety and enjoyment of the product by the consumer".
"Eighty five decibels would not be appropriate because noise coming from traffic, engines and so on would obliterate the sound," he said.
Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who sits on the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, said kids will not follow the new recommendations.
"Kids have always listened to their music loud and this is not going to stop them," he said.
"You have to educate them to the risks but ultimately you have to allow personal responsibility and personal choice," he added.
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