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Health warnings on iPods? EC is thinking about it

Maybe it's not as crazy as it sounds - health warnings on portable music players such as the iPods so that users can understand that they may doing long-term harm to their hearing.It's a proposal that the European Commission is considering, according to a report in the Times of London.

Maybe it's not as crazy as it sounds - health warnings on portable music players such as the iPods so that users can understand that they may doing long-term harm to their hearing.

It's a proposal that the European Commission is considering, according to a report in the Times of London. Years ago, when I was a blaring-my-music-at-the-stoplight teenager, I might have snubbed the government for trying to get me to turn down the volume. But, as an older guy who increasingly finds himself responding to his wife with a "Huh? Speak up. I can't hear you," I understand now that maybe the loud music wasn't the smartest thing.

I'll give the EC this much. It's looking at some innovative ideas around the warnings - from labels to on-screen alerts or periodic reminders after prolonged use. Sure, they're also looking at a way of capping the volumes on the devices but also realize that there needs to be an override process for users who insist on kicking up the volume.

Still, we need to ask the question: Is this really necessary? Warning labels and all that? From the Times story:

The proposals follow the findings of an EU scientific committee last year that said that between 5 and 10 per cent of portable music users risked permanent hearing damage because they listened to too much music through headphones at or above 89 decibels, a level deemed safe for up to an hour a day. The committee suggested that up to ten million people in the EU could be left with impaired hearing in 20 years' time, prompting a call for action from the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID). Officials say that the maximum volume of portable music devices ranges between 80 and 115 decibels and that earphones can add a further seven to nine decibels on top by taking the sound straight into the ear.

Officials pointed to additional research that found that music is played louder today than it was back in my day of cassette-tape Walkmans. Back then, if you turned up the music too loud, distortion kicked in and the song didn't sound good. In today's digital age, distortion is not as much of a problem.

With that said, I have a feeling that me telling my kids, "Hey. Turn that down before I take it away" will be more effective than a warning label that will likely just get covered by a case or some bling.