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2/2/2006
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Apple Hit With iPod Hearing Loss Lawsuit

The suit asks for unspecified damages, and demands that Apple Computer update the iPod software so its portable music players can't blast tunes at more than 100 decibels.

A Louisiana man filed a lawsuit this week claiming that Apple's iPod can cause hearing loss.

The suit, submitted to a San Jose, Calif. federal court on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana, seeks class-action status, asks for unspecified damages, and demands that Apple Computer update the iPod software so the portable music players can't blast tunes at more than 100 decibels.

Hard on the heels of experts saying that the use of earbud-style headphone like those bundled with iPods can lead to hearing loss, Patterson's suit charges Apple with not advising users of a safe listening volume, nor including a meter on the devices to monitor decibel levels.

"The ear buds are small and are placed in the listener's ear canal, close to the cochlea,'' the lawsuit read. "The close proximity to the ear canal directly impacts the amount of hearing loss caused by the MPs [music players], simply because there is less chance of dilution of the sound.''

Apple's practice is to not comment on pending legal action, but it has made some adjustments to iPod volume in the past. In 2002, for instance, it had to restrict the devices' output to 100 decibels to sell them in France.

The last time Apple was hit with a class action was in October 2005, when disgruntled buyers of the iPod nano complained that the gizmo's screen scratched too easily.

The company's iPod line has a stranglehold on the portable digital player market, and holds an estimated 70 percent of the business globally. In January, Apple said that it sold 14 million iPods in the last three months of 2005.

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