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EC experts discuss iPod hearing-loss fears

5 to 10 percent of people at risk of going deaf

The European Commission (EC) convened a panel of experts in Brussels yesterday to consider the risks to hearing caused by listening to music players such as Apple's iPods at a high volume.

The one-day meeting was in response to a study issued in October that found between 5 percent to 10 percent of people who listen to music through personal music players are risking permanent hearing loss because of the amount of time they spend listening at a high volume.

"This risk is real if they listen to music for more than one hour a day, each week, at high volumes settings for a period of five years or more," said Meglena Kuneva, European Commissioner in charge of consumer protection, in televised opening remarks.

"The scientific committee 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 of noise allowed in the work place," she said.

Scheduled to attend the meeting were representatives from Nokia, Apple, the French Ministry of Health, the UK Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the Spanish Confederation of Consumers and Users.

Apple has already set a volume limiter on models of its iPod sold in Europe due to French law, and Kuneva hinted that Europe-wide regulations were a possibility.

"Warnings and information campaigns have a crucial role to play, but they should not be used as an alternative to putting only safe music players in the hands of consumers," said Kuneva.

The panel was to additionally discuss technical solutions that the industry could use to minimize potential hearing damage and whether the existing safety standards need to be revised.

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