People who listen to MP3 players for only five hours a week at a high volume may be doing permanent damage to their hearing.
A team of nine experts on the European Union's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks is expected to release that finding in a study Monday, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.
The EU entity also points out that young people may be doing damage to their hearing that may not surface until years after the exposure, according to the newspaper.
"Regularly listening to personal music players at high-volume settings when young often has no immediate effect on hearing but is likely to result in hearing loss later in life," the newspaper quoted the report as stating.
"Some authors stress that if young people continue to listen to music for long periods of time and at high volume levels during several years, they run the risk of developing hearing loss by the time they reach their mid-20s," the report said, according to the newspaper. "Among young people, there are many reports of temporary or persistent tinnitus induced by loud music, but very few studies have focused on the relationship between the use of personal music players and tinnitus."
The concern over hearing led a Louisiana man to file a class action lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the company had failed to take adequate steps to prevent hearing loss among iPod users. The suit, filed in 2006, charges that the iPod music player can produce sounds of up to 115 decibels, even though some studies suggest that listening to music at that level for 28 seconds a day can cause damage over time.
The suit seeks monetary damages to compensate for the hearing loss suffered by iPod users, as well as a share of Apple's iPod profits. The suit also seeks to force Apple to offer a software upgrade to limit the iPod's output to 100 decibels, as well as provide headphones designed to block out external noise.
While the report noted that the use of personal music players can be "beneficial when performing boring and repetitive tasks," the report's authors warned that threats besides hearing loss loom for their users.
"It may be a hindrance for complicated tasks that require thinking. Music can distract the listeners and isolate them from their environment, which can be very dangerous when driving or walking on busy roads."