Lawsuit against Apple’s iPods

In a previous blog post, we talked about the dangers of using earbuds to play music at excessive levels. While the article was not specific to Apple’s iPods, it did reference the iPod manual’s warning that hearing loss can occur at high volume.

Imagine our surprise when we heard of a lawsuit filed in the  U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA, on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana. According to an Associated Press article:

The lawsuit states:

– The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day.

– The iPod players are “inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss.

– Patterson wants the lawsuit certified as a class-action, and seeks compensation for unspecified damages and upgrades that will make iPods safer.

– Apple was forced to pull the iPod from store shelves in France and upgrade software on the device to limit sound to 100 decibels, but has not followed suit in the United States.

– The headphones commonly referred to as ear buds, which ship with the iPod, also contribute to noise induced hearing loss because they do not dilute the sound entering the ear and are closer to the ear canal than other sound sources.

An Apple Computer Inc. spokeswoman, Kristin Huguet, declined to comment.

The article continues to state that although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause noise-induced hearing isn’t any higher, experts said. “We have numerous products in the marketplace that have the potential to damage hearing,” said Deanna Meinke, an audiology professor at the University of Northern Colorado. “The risk is there but the risk lies with the user and where they set the volume.”

While we won’t know the outcome of the lawsuit for several months, if not years, remember you heard it hear first – turn down those players when using earbuds!

-Update: The lawsuit was dismissed in 2008, ruling that the plaintiffs did not provide evidence that  the iPods were defective or that they had been harmed by the portable music players.