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SPEECH/ 09/414

Meglena Kuneva

European Consumer Commissioner

" Personal music players – preventing hearing damage"

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Press Conference Speaking Points

Brussels, 28 September 2009


I am delighted to be here, to present new measures for consumers to minimise risks of hearing damage from personal music players.

I would like particularly to welcome Ms Bridget Cosgrave, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE, which represents 40 national digital technology associations and more than 10.000 enterprises in Europe. Industry are a very important part of the solution.

And I want to welcome also here in the room, Mr Stephen Russell, Secretary General of ANEC, (who are representing the consumer interest in the creation of technical standards). ANEC are also a key player in the process, and they will be available afterwards with our experts to talk to you in detail.

The problem

I am very glad to be here today because I have three important pieces of information which I want to reach as many ears as possible - especially those listening to personal music players.

  • 1. First, the use of personal music players at high volume settings over a sustained period of time can lead to permanent hearing damage .

  • 2. Second, we need to make sure that consumers, particularly young people, are aware of the risks.

  • 3. Third, we are working to make sure that products are designed so that for "normal use" they are safe.

In other words, we have become aware of a risk to consumer health, we want to make consumers aware of that risk so that they can take steps to avoid it and furthermore we want to put technical solutions in place to reduce the risk as far as possible.

This is why the European Commission has issued a mandate for safety standards for personal music players, which has been sent today to the European Standardisation bodies.

Let me tell you why this matters

Of course, many users of personal music players choose sound volume settings which are unlikely to cause hearing loss.

However, some people set the volume control very high and listen to music for several hours per day. It is these people who are at risk of permanently damaging their hearing.

Young people are a particular concern because they are likely to listen to music through personal music players for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Many young people may be permanently damaging their hearing without even knowing it.

The scientific advice

The advice from the EU's Scientific Committee a year ago underlined that there is real cause for concern . The independent scientific advice said that 5-10% of personal music player listeners 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 at least 5 years.

That is up to 10 million European citizens.

As European regulators we have a duty to react.

So what are we going to do?

The European Commission has today issued a mandate to the European Standardisation bodies to develop new technical safety standards for personal music players with respect to the risk of hearing loss.

The new safety standards have two key requirements .

  • 1. First, all personal music players will have default settings set at safe exposure limits . The new standards will ensure that normal default settings on a personal music player do NOT expose you to a risk to hearing.

  • 2. The mandate also imposes new requirements for adequate warnings for consumers on the risks involved.

Consumers can always choose to override the safe default settings if they want to. But they should be fully aware of the health risks.

What happens next?

The process of devising new standards for a market of 500 million consumers across the EU takes time. It involves working with many different stakeholders and can take up to 24 months.

And the mandate at this stage does NOT provide detailed prescriptive technical solutions. We do NOT want to stifle innovation and creativity in this sector. It is for industry and all the other partners to work together in the coming months to find "smart solutions" and get this right.

So what is the advice to consumers in the meantime?

For the millions of consumer out there who love and enjoy listening to their music on personal music players on daily basis, my message is very clear.

If you want to be sure to continue to enjoy this great pleasure over the long term – if you want to enjoy your favourite songs in twenty or thirty years time. Turn the volume down!!

Digital Europe

Now I would like to introduce Ms Bridget Cosgrave, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE.

I am delighted that industry has been on board from the start of this process – and I hope Ms Cosgrave will talk a little more about how she sees this process going forwards in the coming months.

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