Paris wants personal stereos to be muffled

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Paris - France is set to pass legislation that will limit the maximum volume of personal cassette players to 100 decibels, writes Mary Dejevsky.

The measure is being introduced on health grounds, after medical evidence showed that listening to loud music through earphones was producing "a generation of deaf people".

Many personal stereos sold in France have a maximum volume of 125 decibels, equivalent, scientists say, to the sound of an aeroplane engine at a few metres, and over 40 decibels more than permitted by France's laws on health and safety at work.

The maximum volume permitted in Japan, where 90 per cent of the personal stereos sold in France are made, is 105 decibels, but there is no regulation on those made for export.

The restriction was tabled by Jean-Pierre Cave - an MP who is also an ear, nose and throat surgeon - and was framed as an amendment to a health and safety Bill already going through parliament.

Among the evidence he cited was a 1993 report conducted by a Paris hospital which showed that 20 per cent of final-year school pupils had a 20 decibel diminution in their hearing, compared with 9 per cent a decade before. Deafness is one of the most common reasons for young men being found unfit for military service.

Mr Cave's amendment, which was passed unanimously, also provides for a health warning on Walkmans saying that "prolonged listening at full volume may damage your hearing". The Bill still has to be voted through the senate before it becomes law.