Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Sunday, 12 October 2008 00:39 UK

Music fans 'risk losing hearing'

Listening to music through earphones at high volumes can damage hearing

One in 10 people with personal MP3 or CD players could suffer permanent hearing loss because their music is too loud, according to an EU study.

Scientists say those who listen at high volume for more than one hour per day over five years risk permanent harm.

They say up to 10 million people across Europe, including many children and adolescents, could be affected.

The European Commission will now look into whether technical improvements could minimise hearing damage.

Between 50 and 100 million people are estimated to use personal music players on a daily basis.

The Commission asked the independent committee to conduct the study because of concerns over widespread use of music players among young people.

EU safety standards restrict the noise level of personal music players to 100 decibels but there is increasing concern about excessive exposure to music at high volumes.

Many listeners turn up the volume above harmful levels of over 89 decibels to block out noise from traffic or public transport.

Irrevocable damage

The EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that between five and 10 per cent of listeners, equating to 2.5 to 10 million people, could be at risk.

EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, said, "I am concerned that so many young people, in particular, who are frequent users of personal music players and mobile phones at high acoustic levels, may be unknowingly damaging their hearing irrevocably."

The Commission will now look into whether technical improvements could minimise hearing damage and consider changes to safety standards to protect youngsters.

Last year, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People found more than half of young people who use MP3 players listen for longer than that.

It tested the volume levels of 110 listeners and found 72 were above 85 decibels.

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