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Apple sued over overly loud iPod

Insufficient hearing-loss risk warnings, apparently

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A Louisiana man is suing Apple claiming that the iPod is "inherently defective" because it can pump up the volume to ear-damaging levels and that Apple hasn't done enough to warn him of the risks.

The plaintiff, John Kiel Patterson, is seeking unspecified compensatory damages presumably for hearing loss he may have suffered, though the lawsuit, filed with the San Jose District Court, doesn't say as much, according to the Associated Press' report on the matter.

Patterson wants the suit given class-action status. He also wants the court to force Apple to "upgrade" the iPod to make it safer.

The lawsuit maintains that iPods can generate sound in excess of 115dB - enough to harm hearing if ears are exposed to it for long periods of time.

Patterson claims he bought an iPod a year ago. That's about the time this reporter picked up a Shuffle for his missus, and a quick peek at the user guide reveals the following:

"Warning Permanent hearing loss may occur if earbuds or headphones are used at high volume. You can adapt over time to a higher volume of sound, which may sound normal but can be damaging to your hearing. Set your iPod Shuffle to a safe level before that happens. If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce the volume or discontinue use of your iPod Shuffle."

The emphasis there is Apple's. Of course, it doesn't define what a "safe level" is, but given the huge number of warnings put out by the medical profession as to the dangers of listening to personal music devices since the launch of Sony's Walkman in the late 1970s, you'd have thought people would have got the message by now.

And having read Apple's user guide, Patterson surely would have long ago been aware of the risk and, quite reasonably, returned his iPod to the store from which he bought it. Or maybe not...

Curiously, the lawsuit mentions that Apple tweaked the output of iPods sold in France in order to reduce the devices' maximum volume. That's true, but it did so because there's a law there that specifically mandates such a move. In the US, there is no equivalent law, we understand. ®

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