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Legislation would create 85-decibel cap, but some say it's unjust

To help protect the hearing of MP3 player owners, the European Commission is considering drafting legislation that would force manufacturers to create a limit on maximum volume. The proposed limit, a maximum 85 decibels, comes on the heels of an EU report that reports 10 million citizens could have hearing problems, including permanent hearing loss and other major medical issues.

"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," said Dr. Robin Yeoh, Epsom and St. Heilier NHS Trust consultant, in an interview with BBC.  "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."

If music listeners want to, they could increase the decibel limit up to 100 decibels.

EU legislators will take a closer look into the matter next month, with a final decision expected sometime in the spring.

Critics say there must be some type of middle ground between consumer safety and personal ownership, and note that 85 decibels is too low when background noise can still drown out the music.  Realistically, government officials must try to educate children about the dangers, not try to prevent it without education, if they wish to help reduce hearing-related cases stemming from loud music.

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Another EU waste of time
By plewis00 on 12/15/2009 8:07:09 AM , Rating: 1
As someone who lives in the UK (and therefore the EU) I really have to ask do they actually have nothing better to do other than just go round stirring things up. They're just a great excuse for people to hate bureaucracy even more.

How do you impose an 85dB limit? Headphones come in different shapes and sizes with differing impedances, if you're telling me the maximum volume is the same for a tiny pair of in-ear headphones with 10mm drives than a set of studio-grade monitors with 50mm+ drivers I wouldn't believe you. About all they can do is restrict the power output on the things and that brings me back to my original point, why are the EU even wasting time considering it?

RE: Another EU waste of time
By SocrPlyr on 12/15/2009 8:21:32 AM , Rating: 4
This is nothing new and not just an EU thing. About 3 years ago many were in an uproar at Apple, because the iPod allowed the volume to go way too high. Apple eventually made an updated firmware that reduced the max level and allowed people to even set their own (and lock it out with a code, for parents). I am not sure if the US has a limit, but most products do allow the volume to go way above the level that hearing loss starts. (There are many studies that show that even low levels of noise that are constantly present will do just as much harm as very very loud noise levels for short amounts of time which are normally targeted, example jackhammer).

As for how to impose the limit, you can't control everything. You can require that they come from the factory with a (near average impedance) set of headphones that will not exceed the level limit. If someone chooses to change the headphones, there are several things you can do. First is that the dB rating is related to the power of the output, so all manufacturers need to do is limit the output power (not the voltage). There are many simple ways to do that with the circuitry.

RE: Another EU waste of time
By mindless1 on 12/15/2009 8:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
There is not many simple ways to do that, it depends on the speakers and the product lacks this ability.

What they do instead is just put a limit on the % of max the volume control allows then remap it so when it looks like it's at 100%, it would've looked like it was at for example 70% if they had not remapped it to graphically display different.

So yes firmware can do that, but no the player can't determine output power to any remotely accurate degree except under the assumption the stock headphones (or earbuds I should write) are used and they remain a constant not changing in design.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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