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This month a safety limit on volume levels for all new personal music players such as iPods has been introduced to warn users of the dangers of listening to their music at an unsafe volume.

All personal music players and mobile phones sold within the EU must now have a sound limit of 85 Decibels (dB) although this can be increased by users themselves to 100dB. The sound limit is still above the 80 db which is recommended as the safe limit for users. This limit was set by a European Commission Assessment which noted that 80dB was a safe level no matter how long they were continuously used for at this level. Noise at this level is comparable to someone shouting or road traffic noise in the street.

Under new rules if users choose to override the max setting of 85dB then warnings regarding the risks of using personal music players at such high levels ought to be repeated on the device automatically every 20 hours.

A recent survey by Action for Hearing Loss has found that many people are exceeding the limits and increasing the sound to 120dB which is comparable to an aeroplane taking off nearby. This exceeds safe limits and is something that an airport worker for example would be protecting themselves against with the use of ear defenders. The survey found that 40 per cent of the 1,500 16-34 year olds surveyed would override the safe limits despite being aware of the risks.

The European Commission has reported that an estimated 20 per cent of young people are exposed to excessive noise during their leisure time and five to ten per cent of people in the EU are thought to be at risk of permanent hearing loss induced by noise.

These statistics are particularly worrying given that since warnings and default settings will be in place as standard on all devices people will likely have no legal re-dress should they go on to develop noise induced hearing loss. It seems to be that young people are the worst culprits and could therefore be damaging their hearing and ability to hear throughout their working lives potentially risking their future employability.  Noise induced deafness is something which is thought to be a disease associated with heavy industry which in most cases now is prevented through proper use of ear defenders and hearing tests. These studies show however that it is very much a modern problem which will have lasting effects throughout a generation.


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