• EU: Lower Max Volume on Personal Music Players

    image via Indiana Public Media

    In a decision by the European Commission today, new standards have been imposed on "personal music players and mobile phones with a music playing function" sold in the European Union. Following a report by an EU science committee about the effects of prolonged exposure to music at high volumes, the commission required new safety regulations that would limit the "default" maximum volume the players would be capable of. The commission left open the possibility that users could override these settings if they were notified of the potential harm.

    In October of 1998, the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) released the results of a study that found that listening to loud music through players like the iPod at a high volume could cause permanent hearing damage. The committee estimated that 5-10% of the people who regularly use music players - or up to 10 million people in Europe -listen for over 1 hour a day with the volume turned up to damaging levels. The threshold of damage was determined to be 40 hours per week listening at 80 adjusted decibels, or 5 hours a week listening at 89 decibels.

    The standards would require that the default setting of the maximum volume of music players sold in the EU would not exceed safe levels. Devices can be capable of playing at higher volumes (in other words, the device could "go to 11"), but users would have to manually select the higher max volume after reading a warning: for example a label or a pop-up on the device's display.

    "These standards make small technical changes to players so that by default, normal use is safe," said Meglena Kuneva, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner. "If consumers chose to override the default settings they can, but there will be clear warnings so they know the risks they are taking."
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