Scientists have issued a health warning to people who use personal music players about the noise levels they can experience through headphones.
European Union experts on health risks said the quality of music that can be reproduced on tiny MP3 players is now so good that more people are turning up the volume – risking permanent hearing damage.
A report from the EU's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks estimates that between 5% and 10% of personal music player users risk permanent hearing loss if they listen for more than an hour a day at high volume settings for at least five years.
European Commission officials said that although it may sound like a low risk, rising numbers of people plug themselves into loud music every day just during journeys to school or work.
With a few more hours and decibels the number of people in the EU risking some permanent hearing loss will be between 2.5 and 10 million people, they warned.
An EU safety standard restricts the volume of personal music players to 100 decibels, but scientists said the danger level is long-term exposure above 89 decibels.