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H&S | Update on WHO “Make Listening Safe” initiative

MOS meeting (Geneva, Feb. 2020)

FIM took part in a new con­sul­ta­tive meet­ing joint­ly organ­ised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with­in the Make Listening Safe ini­tia­tive. Underway for some years now, this ini­tia­tive is pur­su­ing the fol­low­ing three aims:
 — Drawing up and imple­ment­ing a world WHO-​ITU stan­dard aimed at reduc­ing risks linked to the use of music lis­ten­ing devices (audio play­ers and smartphones);
 — Undertaking a cam­paign aimed at the gen­er­al pub­lic to mod­i­fy pat­terns of lis­ten­ing behaviour;
 — Developing a reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work for con­trol­ling recre­ation­al sound exposure.

Held from 17 to 19 February 2020 at WHO head­quar­ters in Geneva, the meet­ing brought togeth­er acousti­cians, sound engi­neers, doc­tors, researchers, the­atre oper­a­tors and show organ­is­ers, musi­cians and hearing-​impaired per­sons, as well as teenagers, since young peo­ple are one of WHO’s priorities.

WHO has declared 3 March World Hearing Day. In addi­tion, it would like to invite the largest num­ber of play­ers in the live enter­tain­ment sec­tor to sub­scribe to a com­mit­ment to the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple (cur­rent­ly being draft­ed), for which FIM will be con­sult­ed. Representatives of the enter­tain­ment sec­tor point­ed out, how­ev­er, that this was a par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive exer­cise and that each word should be care­ful­ly weighed.

WHO Would like to invite the largest num­ber of play­ers in the live enter­tain­ment sec­tor to sub­scribe to a com­mit­ment to the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple, for which FIM will be consulted

Developing a reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work to con­trol noise is a par­tic­u­lar­ly com­plex and risky busi­ness. Although there can be no doubt that pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures must be imple­ment­ed at all per­for­mance venues and that the gen­er­al pub­lic and pro­fes­sion­als have to learn how to pro­tect them­selves bet­ter, includ­ing using earplugs if nec­es­sary, it is also cru­cial not to fos­ter a cli­mate of mis­trust or imple­ment legal pro­vi­sions that would be so strict as to make them unen­force­able. The con­se­quences for the live enter­tain­ment sec­tor, in par­tic­u­lar the small­est venues whose means are very lim­it­ed, could actu­al­ly prove to be cat­a­stroph­ic. A sub­tle bal­ance needs to be found, some­thing that is made all the more dif­fi­cult by the fact that WHO intends to make this a uni­ver­sal frame­work. FIM will be fol­low­ing this issue closely.

Finally, we should note that, thanks to the action of FIM, WHO has under­tak­en a cycle of inter­views with musi­cians on the issue of sound expo­sure which will be tak­ing place over the com­ing weeks.

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