EU scientific body raises health alarm on MP3s

An attendee at the 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) looks over some mini video/music players from LG Electronics in Las Vegas, January 6, 2005. REUTERS/Mike Blake

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Up to 10 million young Europeans are in danger of damaging their hearing by playing their MP3 personal music players too loud, a European Union body on health risks told a conference on Tuesday.

Listening to MP3 players and other personal music players at high volumes for long periods of time can cause loss of hearing and tinnitus, a ringing sensation in the ears, the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks said.

It found that 5-10 percent of MP3 users risk permanent hearing loss if they listen to a personal music player for more than one hour per day, each week at high volume settings for a period of at least 5 years. No cure is currently known for hearing loss or tinnitus, the committee noted in its report.

“Let’s be frank -- we are looking at a catastrophe unless something is done soon,” Stephen Russell of the pan-European ANEC consumer safety group said.

The conference, organised by the European Commission in Brussels, discussed possible measures to prevent such health effects, ranging from warnings flashed on the devices’ screens, to limits on the maximum volumes on players. The Commission said it would examine possible action on the problem.

Reporting by Sarah Luehrs; editing by Mark John