The result is that in order to achieve the questionable gain of limiting consumer choice they are willing to separate off the European market so that manufacturers have to market specific products to Europe at greater costs and higher prices and with smaller product ranges.
The European Commission is asking music player industry stakeholders to help to develop standards that would ensure that people using personal digital media players do not damage their hearing as a result of long usage or listening on high volumes.
Up to 250 million personal digital media players were sold in the European Union in the last four years alone and up to 100 million people may have been using them on a daily basis. According to findings of the EC, 5-10% of personal music player listeners risk permanent hearing loss. This risk is real if they listen to music for more than one hour a day, each week, at high volume settings, for a period of 5 years or more.
According to a recent survey in the UK, over half the number of 16-24 year olds questioned said they listen to their personal music players for at least an hour a day. Out of all respondents, almost 20% said they listen to them more than 21 hours a week.
“I am concerned that up to 10 million people in the EU, who are frequent users of personal music players at high volumes, may be unknowingly damaging their hearing irrevocably,” said Meglena Kuneva, European consumer commissioner during her speech at personal music players stakeholders’ conference.
European safety standards already exist, restricting the noise level of personal music players to 100 decibels. However, the current standards have some caveats as they cover only some music players and there is increasing concern over hearing damage from excessive exposure to such sources. Moreover, even standard music players, when used with, for example, in-ear headphones, may cause damage to hearing.
The Scientific Committee of EC opinion highlights that, if consumers use their personal music players for only one hour per day each week at more than 89 decibels, they would exceed the current limits in place for noise allowed in the workplace.
“Today we need to ensure that we join forces in developing a solution that does not stifle innovation and consumer choice and which, at the same time, guarantees that consumers are protected from damage to their hearing and that the products they buy and use on a day-to-day basis are safe,” Ms. Kuneva said.
At this point the European authorities are not talking about any General Product Safety Directive-like regulation that would force makers of personal digital media players to further limit maximum volume level of their devices. At present the authorities are looking for more efficient ways of informing people regarding potential damage that listening to loud music may cause. Additionally, since current regulations do not cover certain types of players, the Commission may extend regulations to them as well.