Consumer “Brings the Noise;” Apple Sued Over iPod Volume

While Apple encourages their iPod users to “Pump up the Volume”, one consumer urges that the company needs to “pump its brakes” and put consumer safety first.

John Keil Patterson has filed a federal lawsuit against Apple in a San Francisco court, last week, claiming that the company’s ever popular portable audio player allows hazardous high levels of music volume and fails to state clearly that using the product in high volume levels can cause hearing loss.

The complaint, filed by the Louisiana native, seeks class-action status and compensation for unspecified plaintiffs’ damages and upgrades that will make the iPod safer. 

Although Patterson is unsure that he has suffered hearing damage from usage of the iPod, his attorney Steve Berman believes “that’s beside the point.” According to the complaint, “millions of consumers have had their hearing put at risk by Apple’s conduct.”  Apple iPods sold in Europe were pulled from store shelves allowing the company to implement firmware to limit the sound level to 100 decibels. Yet, the software upgrade did not affect the iPod sales overseas

Units sold in the United States can produce sound levels in excess of 115 decibels, a volume that can damage a person’s hearing if exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, the complaint 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,” the complaint states. 

Although, Apple ships a warning with each iPod that cautions "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume," Patterson accuses Apple selling devices “inherently defective in design and not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss.” He also feels the iPods are contributing to hearing loss since lesson manuals related to the device include phrases such as “crank up the tunes” and “bring in the noise,” according the complaint.

Apple iPods are more popular than any other type of portable music players, but its ability to cause noise-induced hearing isn’t any higher, experts say. Furthermore, a Sony Walkman, the first audio player which was sold in 1979, produces the same high audio levels via headphones as iPods. More than 42 million iPods have been sold since 2001, including 14 million in the fourth quarter of last year.