EU scientific body raises MP3 health alarm

Reports says millions of youths risk hearing loss

BRUSSELS -- As many as 10 million young Europeans are in danger of damaging their hearing by playing their MP3 personal music players too loud, a European Union body on health risks told a conference Tuesday.

Listening to MP3 players and other personal music players at high volumes for long periods of time can cause loss of hearing and tinnitus, a ringing sensation in the ears, the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks said.

It found that 5%-10% of MP3 users 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 a period of at least five years. No cure is known for hearing loss or tinnitus, the committee noted in its report.

"Let's be frank -- we are looking at a catastrophe unless something is done soon," Stephen Russell of the Pan-European ANEC consumer safety group said.

The conference, organized by the European Commission in Brussels, discussed possible measures to prevent such health effects, ranging from warnings flashed on the devices' screens, to limits on the maximum volumes on players. The commission said it would examine possible action on the problem.