Have you heard? iPods in Europe are about to get a lot more quiet. Regulators have released a new set of standards governing how loud portable music players can go, and that means the default max volume is going take a big dip from where it currently sits.
The EU's New MP3 Player Policy
The European Commission's new policy will require iPods and other MP3 players to have a default maximum volume of 80 decibels. That's considered a "very loud" level by most sound rankings; anything above that mark can be potentially dangerous. Presently, most MP3 players go as loud as 115 to 125 decibels.
For some fun comparisons, we turn to the U.S. National Institute On Deafness And Other Communications Disorders] (apparently, every shorter agency name was already taken). According to the, er, USNIODAOCD:
• 80 decibels is equivalent to the level of noise you'd hear on a busy city street;
• 90 decibels is lawnmower-like loudness;
• 110 is as ear-shattering as a loud rock concert;
• 120 to 130 matches the level of an airliner taking off -- or, in less technical terms, "GET USED TO PEOPLE ALWAYS HAVING TO SHOUT AT YOU!"
Some Volume Limit Limitations
With the new restrictions, MP3 player-makers will only have to preset their devices' default max volumes. They will, however, have the option of allowing users to disable that default and venture into deafening territory, albeit with some sort of warning about the eardrum-puncturing delights that may occur.
So what would this warning actually entail? Per the EU statement:
"A dequate warnings for consumers on the risks involved, and on ways to avoid them, including the situation when the original set of earphones is replaced with another type and this causes higher unsafe sound levels. The mandate is not prescriptive in terms of how this is done. Industry solutions could include, for example, labels or digital information on the screen."
(I'm pretty sure they meant "adequate," not "a dequate." Because, I'll be honest, I have no idea what "a dequate warning" would be.)
Personally, I think it's great that users will still be able to ignore the advice and subject themselves to harmful decibel exposure. It's perfectly permissible for someone to ruin his own lungs with heavy smoking, after all, or to ruin his own liver with heavy drinking. Why draw a distinction with eardrums?
Seriously, though, the new visual warnings should be a good step toward ensuring people are at least aware of the dangers of rockin' out earbud-style. Unless, of course, they've already had their eyesight damaged by an exploding iPod. Then they're just totally screwed.