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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One in 10 iPod users risks going deaf, experts warn

By Daniel Martin

In parks, on trains and even pounding the pavement, we are permanently wired for sound.

But our love affair with our iPods and MP3 players could cost us our hearing.

More than a million Britons could go deaf because they listen to their music too loud and too long, experts warn.

iPod user

Young people are at risk from permanent deafness caused by listening to their iPods at high volumes, a new report shows

Up to 10 per cent of iPod and other MP3 users across Europe are risking deafness if they listen for more than an hour a day for at least five years.

That means about 10million could end up sacrificing their hearing simply because they can't stop listening to music.

The warning comes from the EU's scientific committee on emerging health risks.

It carried out a study into the soaring numbers routinely exposed to high noise volumes through personal music players.

An EU safety standard already exists restricting the noise level of such players to 100 decibels.

But the scientists warn that the danger level is much lower than this.

They say music pumped into the ears above 89 decibels for long periods of time is actually louder than currently allowed in factories. Their report will be welcomed by campaigners for the deaf - and the fed-up commuters who have to endure loud music leaking from the earphones of neighbours on packed buses and trains.

Emma Harrison, head of campaigns at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said: 'Decision makers and opinion formers are finally waking up to the hearing loss time bomb threatening many young MP3 users.'

She said the institute had started a Don't Lose the Music campaign, which raises awareness of the dangers of listening to MP3 players too loudly.

'Our research revealed that 58 per cent of 16 to 30-year-olds are completely unaware of any risk to their hearing from MP3 players,' she said.

'The announcement that further action is needed is a vindication of this work.

'We want to see the Government and industry taking decisive action to save the hearing of future generations.'

The committee said users should turn down the volume on their music players, or, if possible, set the machine's maximum usable volume at a lower level.

Between 50million and 100million people across the EU are thought to listen to portable music players on a daily basis - equivalent to between six and 12 million in Britain.

EU consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva said a conference early next year would bring governments, the music industry and consumers together to discuss the way forward.

'I am concerned that so many young people who are frequent users of personal music players and mobile phones at high acoustic levels may be unknowingly damaging their hearing irrevocably,' she said.

'The scientific findings indicate a clear risk and we need to react rapidly.

'Most importantly we need to raise consumer awareness.

'We need also to look again at the controls in place to make sure they are effective and keep pace with new technology.'

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