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Spoilsports – or saviours?

The case for headphone limiters

Why do we want to ‘limit’ your headphone listening experience? Well, we don’t BUT there’s a strong link between listening to high level sound – however desirable – and long term hearing problems. The precise mechanisms are still not fully understood and vary from individual to individual but the evidence is sufficiently strong for legislators to have imposed legal constraints on the level of sound to which an employee may be exposed.

Early versions of such law were aimed at obvious risk areas, such as mines, quarries and heavy industries like steel and shipbuilding. Later, despite arguments about the nature of ‘noise’ itself, the risks inherent in environments occupied by professional musicians and office workers were brought within the legislation.

In the early 1980s, the introduction of the ‘Walkman’ type of personal music player – the forerunner of the now ubiquitous personal listening devices – led to consideration of whether extended headphone listening could lead to similar levels of sound exposure as the more ‘traditional’ culprits. The conclusion was that such exposure could, and should, be treated as an equivalent risk and this led to investigation of mechanisms to mitigate this risk. One obvious professional use of headphones is in broadcasting and the BBC designs department was asked to look at the issue of headphone volume limiting in the early 1980s (coincidence?).

Headphone limiters installed and calibrated by Canford rely heavily on that early BBC work but with continued development and (hopefully) improvement. Whilst the design seeks to minimise impact on the quality of the listening experience, it has to be remembered that the object is to provide organisations with the means to mitigate the risk of long-term hearing issues amongst the employees, whose jobs now include call centres, security and surveillance in addition to the broadcasters.

Find more detail on Headphone Limiters here.

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