updated 08:15 am EDT, Mon September 28, 2009
EU limits MP3 player sound levesl
The European Commission on Monday set volume limits for MP3 players in all European Union member states. Similar to existing rules for maximum volume exposure anywhere, the limits should prevent devices from outputting sound louder than 80 decibels under their default settings. Officials argue the limits are necessary as many devices can play music at levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage but without warning listeners.
"It's easy to push up the sound levels on your MP3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport," Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said. "And 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."
The EU mandate will still let users override the settings as long as they're told of the possible consequences, including the use of headphones that can exceed the safe limits without having to change settings on the player.
Companies in Europe have already introduced volume limits to respond to requests from individual member states, but the new conditions will require firmware updates for much of the continent. Apple has had iPod volume caps since March 2006.