Open Medicine, a B.C.-based medical journal, is calling on Health Canada to follow the lead of European countries that have passed laws governing maximum volume levels for iPods and other personal listening devices. According to the online medical journal, children and young adults who have grown up listening to loud music through earbuds and headphones risk permanent hearing loss and should be protected through legislation. Millions of Canadians (400,000 in B.C.) already have hearing loss and it’s estimated that up to 10 per cent of people who listen to personal music players (PMPs) at high volume for more than an hour per day could permanently damage their hearing. Hearing damage from such devices can entail permanent ringing in the ears, hypersensitivity to loud sounds, inability to hear certain sounds and difficulty hearing in noisy environments.

Headphones connected to music listening devices can produce sound levels reaching 120 or 130 decibels — equal to the loudness of a thunderclap, a jackhammer or a jet taking off 30 metres away. International standard-setting bodies require workers’ ears to be protected from sound levels at 85 decibels or higher, the same as the default maximum that European Union countries have adopted for personal music players. Manufacturers of devices distributed or sold in Europe have been given two years to meet the new standards. In Ottawa, the government is evaluating the issue but has not yet given an indication of whether the new European standards will be copied.

According to research conducted by iData Research, the market for hearing aids and audiology devices will reach over $7 billion by 2016, with standard hearing aids accounting for nearly 90% of the overall hearing device market.