The European Union seems bent on implementing a legal framework to protect the ears and tympans of its citizens from the carnage caused by excess volume coming from MP3 headphones.
The EU consumer affairs commissioner Meglena Kuneva told journalists that "It's easy to push up the sound levels on your MP3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport."
It is widely accepted that the safe listening level is around 85 decibels for 40 hours per week. However, some MP3 players can reach music levels of up to 120 decibels which is equivalent to listening to planes on an airport runway and slightly below the threshold of pain.
Brussels therefore want to implement a cigarette-style health label that will warn users about potential risks associated with listening to excessively loud music for a long period.
There are also talks about setting a limit on the volume of MP3 devices before they are actually sold in Europe although consumers should ultimately be able to overrride any safe mode (ed: just like for drinking or smoking).
The risks and consequences are real. It is estimated that up to 10 million people in Europe could become deaf because of the sound level that goes directly to their tympans through their earphones.
This number is expected to rise significantly over the next few decades as the penetration rate of personal media players and music-capable mobile phones reaches 100 percent and the current generation of teenagers ages.
Does it make sense? Certainly. In practical terms, because health budgets are not infinite, there will be a gradual but growing tendency for governments to emphasize prevention rather than cure. As for cigarette smoking or drinking alcohol, the damages caused by loud music to the users' ears can only be seen in the medium to long term.