MP3 fans risk hearing damage

A set of noise-cancelling cans like these Philips SHD9100s can help save your hearing by cutting out background noise, enabling you to lower the volume

Two-thirds of young people using their MP3 players on a daily basis risk causing permanent damage to their ears because they have the volume cranked up too high.

That's the warning from charity Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). It's urging manufacturers of digital media players to label their products with clear warnings about potential hearing damage.

The charity found that 65 per cent of MP3 users aged 18-30 were listening to volumes above 85 decibels, which is equivalent to having a loud alarm clock going off in your ear. According to the World Health Organization, listening to such volumes for more than an hour can cause damage to your hearing.

According to RNID's research, almost half of young people listen to their MP3 player for more than an hour per day, while a quarter listen for more than 21 hours a week. Most were unaware of risks to their hearing, and 79 per cent said they had never seen any warnings about noise levels on packages.

With some eight million MP3 players sold in the UK last year, the RNID recommends that you invest in some in-ear filters for headphones to shut out background noise. This in turn means that you won't have to crank up the volume so much.

"MP3 manufacturers have a responsibility to make their customers aware of the dangers by printing clear warnings on packaging and linking volume controls to decibel levels," Brian Lamb, acting chief executive of RNID, said in a statement.

"It's easy to crank up the sound levels on your MP3 player to damagingly loud levels, especially on busy streets or public transport. But if people can hear the music from your headphones from just a metre away, you're putting your hearing at risk.

"Young people need to be educated so they can make choices about the risk of exposure to loud noise - the same as with safe sex, sun exposure, drink and drugs," Lamb added.