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February 2, 2006

Don't Turn Down that iPod, Hand Me a Lawsuit

Apple was hit with a lawsuit claiming that its over-popular iPod causes hearing loss.  Experts had warned earlier over  this prospect.  The claim is that the earbuds which pipes music directly into the ear canal do not diffuse sound causing hearing loss.  The suit calls the device defective in design and has inadequate warnings about hearing loss.  Apple does ship each iPod with a statement that "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume."

While the iPod does have a volume control, it can reach levels of about 115 decibels.  By comparison, power saws produce sounds at about 110 decibels, and jet engines produce sound at about 140 decibels.  An interesting volume comparison chart from Galen Carol  Audio is here.  Another from the NIH is here.  Check out Chapter 8 of the Rock And Roll High School DVD where Principal Togar (Mary Woronov) demonstrates the comparative volume of the Ramones on a hapless mouse.  No one knows how loud the sound is for those spastic silhouettes in Apple's commercials urging us to turn it up, or something like that. 

Apple had to limit the volume of the iPod to 100 decibels to sell it in France, but has not modified the design here.  It would be a shame to include a warning on the side of MP3 players about hearing loss similar to those of cigarette packages warning about the dangers of smoking.  That would certainly take down the cool factor a notch or two.

Information Week has the story.

February 2, 2006 | Permalink


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