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Apple prevails in appeal over iPod hearing loss

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
A class-action lawsuit claiming that Apple's iPod was responsible for hearing loss was rejected by a federal appeals court on Wednesday, mirroring an earlier decision made in district court in 2008.

A class-action lawsuit claiming that Apple's iPod music players cause hearing loss was rejected in appeals court on Wednesday. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs did not adequately show that use of the iPod "poses an unreasonable risk of noise-induced hearing loss," reported Reuters.

The suit claimed that the design of the iPod ear buds encouraged deep insertion into the ear canal, and therefore increase the risk of hearing damage.

"The plaintiffs do not allege the iPods failed to do anything they were designed to do nor do they allege that they, or any others, have suffered or are substantially certain to suffer inevitable hearing loss or other injury from iPod use. At most the plaintiffs plead a potential risk of hearing loss not to themselves, but to other unidentified iPod users." Senior Judge David Thompson wrote.

The plaintiffs, Bruce Waggoner and Joseph BIrdsong, were looking for monetary damages, redesigned headphones, and improved safety messages included with the product.
post #2 of 35
yes, i'm sure the ipod is also guilty of the economic crisis...

didn't the earbuds used for ipods exist prior to the ipod itself?
post #3 of 35
so someone that had suffered no damage and knew no one that had suffered any damage was suing cause maybe some day someone might. no wonder it was tossed.

as for the earbud comment, if you can insert them 'deeply into the ear canal' you got some seriously wide ears. or you are shoving them in way too hard.

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post #4 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

so someone that had suffered no damage and knew no one that had suffered any damage was suing cause maybe some day someone might. no wonder it was tossed.

as for the earbud comment, if you can insert them 'deeply into the ear canal' you got some seriously wide ears. or you are shoving them in way too hard.

Agreed. They aren't exactly a nice fit. It's more like an oval peg into a round smaller hole

This is totally about people trying to profit off of a company for their own stupidity. Turn up an iPod that much and it's downright PAINFUL. It doesn't take a genius to figure out it's probably going to damage your ear drums.
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post #5 of 35
What a jerkoff lawsuit to begin with. How are the iPod's earbuds different than the ones made by pretty much every other manufacturer? And where's this dumbass' acceptance of personal responsibility? Let's start suing every knife maker because they have sharp blades that can cut you.
post #6 of 35
say wha???!!!!?!?!??!??!!?
post #7 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

At most the plaintiffs plead a potential risk of hearing loss not to themselves, but to other unidentified iPod users." Senior Judge David Thompson wrote.

The plaintiffs, Bruce Waggoner and Joseph BIrdsong, were looking for monetary damages, redesigned headphones, and improved safety messages included with the product.

What a load of crap. These two were wanting to capitalize on somebody's future act of idiocy, namely that of the judge and or jury that may have decided in their favor.

You purposely play your iPod too loud + you suffer hearing loss as a result = your problem.

How does Apple fit into this equation?
post #8 of 35
Heyyy, what's with all the rational and logical comments here?! This doesn't seem right for an AI comment forum.\
post #9 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by isaidso View Post

Heyyy, what's with all the rational and logical comments here?! This doesn't seem right for an AI comment forum.\

Give it time.
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by canucklehead View Post

What a jerkoff lawsuit to begin with. How are the iPod's earbuds different than the ones made by pretty much every other manufacturer? And where's this dumbass' acceptance of personal responsibility? Let's start suing every knife maker because they have sharp blades that can cut you.

100% right!!
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by isaidso View Post

Heyyy, what's with all the rational and logical comments here?! This doesn't seem right for an AI comment forum.\

They have the computer room at the asylum locked up for the night.
post #12 of 35
Didn't Apple put a volume limiting function on the iPods before the Touch was even invented? You could set a max via software. This suit was always stupid. It's pretty easy to tell if something is too loud, it hurts your f...ing head and makes your ears ring. Do it enough and you go deaf.
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by technohermit View Post

Didn't Apple put a volume limiting function on the iPods before the Touch was even invented? You could set a max via software. This suit was always stupid. It's pretty easy to tell if something is too loud, it hurts your f...ing head and makes your ears ring. Do it enough and you go deaf.

My 5th generation iPod classic has the volume limiting feature you are referring to.
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by technohermit View Post

Didn't Apple put a volume limiting function on the iPods before the Touch was even invented? You could set a max via software. This suit was always stupid. It's pretty easy to tell if something is too loud, it hurts your f...ing head and makes your ears ring. Do it enough and you go deaf.

Mind you, I think this particular suit, being so vague, should have been rejected.

But at the same time, Apple could do much better, with a little extra effort. The limiter should be in decibels.

Sound exposure limits are in decibels. If you set the current limiter you don't really know what your exposure is, since it is expressed in an arbitrary scale.

Apple already has implemented volume matching with Sound Check. To measure in decibels they would simply need to measure the output of their headphones. You would select the model on your iPod, and newer iPods and headphones could be designed to identify the model automatically.

Apple could certify third party headphones and add them to it's database. The third party certification process could provide revenue to fund the effort.

A decibel limiter is the right thing to do. It would present a very high legal barrier to future lawsuits, and it would be the kind of high quality detail that belongs in an Apple product.

And make no mistake, the suits will come. Apple is a big target and a lot of people will suffer hearing loss, but they will only realize this when they hit their late 30's or 40's, since the damage is cumulative and slow at first.
post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cranky View Post

You purposely play your iPod too loud + you suffer hearing loss as a result = your problem.

How does Apple fit into this equation?

Apple fits into the equation because people don't really know what too loud is. The ear has automatic gain adjustment, so the perception of loudness is relative to the environment you are in.

This is why you can trick yourself into a volume that is too high when you are in a noisy environment.
post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

Apple fits into the equation because people don't really know what too loud is. The ear has automatic gain adjustment, so the perception of loudness is relative to the environment you are in.

This is why you can trick yourself into a volume that is too high when you are in a noisy environment.

Of course they do. If your ears are ringing, the audio is too loud. Anyone who's ever been to a concert can tell you this. If the sound is painful, it's too loud. Car Stereo's don't have this limit. Neither do audio tuners, televisions, etc.

This isn't rocket science.
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post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Of course they do. If your ears are ringing, the audio is too loud. Anyone who's ever been to a concert can tell you this. If the sound is painful, it's too loud. Car Stereo's don't have this limit. Neither do audio tuners, televisions, etc.

This isn't rocket science.

It's not rocket science, but what you say is not true.

Sure, if you feel pain then the volume is too loud. That's obvious.

But the volume can also be too loud and produce long term hearing loss through repeated exposure, well below the immediate pain threshold. If your ears are ringing, the volume is too loud. But if they are not, it does NOT mean that the volume is OK.

It's like eating fatty foods. You don't feel pain in your heart when you eat, but you do the damage. So we have labeling now.

What isn't rocket science is limiting the decibel level. It's actually quite easy, just some coding and measuring. Nothing Apple can't handle with a coder and a sound engineer assigned part time. The lawyers are probably more expensive than that.
post #18 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

Mind you, I think this particular suit, being so vague, should have been rejected.

But at the same time, Apple could do much better, with a little extra effort. The limiter should be in decibels.

Sound exposure limits are in decibels. If you set the current limiter you don't really know what your exposure is, since it is expressed in an arbitrary scale.

Apple already has implemented volume matching with Sound Check. To measure in decibels they would simply need to measure the output of their headphones. You would select the model on your iPod, and newer iPods and headphones could be designed to identify the model automatically.

Apple could certify third party headphones and add them to it's database. The third party certification process could provide revenue to fund the effort.

A decibel limiter is the right thing to do. It would present a very high legal barrier to future lawsuits, and it would be the kind of high quality detail that belongs in an Apple product.

And make no mistake, the suits will come. Apple is a big target and a lot of people will suffer hearing loss, but they will only realize this when they hit their late 30's or 40's, since the damage is cumulative and slow at first.

If it were possible to characterize a given headphone model, rely upon manufacturing tolerances to meet the same specs on every unit produced, and account for variations in how those 'phones fit peoples' ears, then the only remaining problems would be how to identify those headphones when plugged in. Every single manufacturer of headphones would have to include some sort of unambiguous identification method, such as a 1-Wire EEPROM or similar, because using measurable characteristics like impedance, inductance, etc. are going to fail due to manufacturing tolerances and ambiguation (most headphones are similar in impedance, and more similar than the acceptable tolerance in many cases). So now that you've solved the manufacturing and usage problems, all you have to do is convince Sony, Bose, AKG, JVC, etc. that they have to add hardware (and cost!) to their iPod compatible products so that Apple won't be served with frivolous lawsuits. Good luck with that.

While I'm sure it's meant well, the technical hurdles with your solution are significant, and the marketing/competitive hurdles are even greater.
post #19 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

It's not rocket science, but what you say is not true.

Sure, if you feel pain then the volume is too loud. That's obvious.

But the volume can also be too loud and produce long term hearing loss through repeated exposure, well below the immediate pain threshold. If your ears are ringing, the volume is too loud. But if they are not, it does NOT mean that the volume is OK.

It's like eating fatty foods. You don't feel pain in your heart when you eat, but you do the damage. So we have labeling now.

What isn't rocket science is limiting the decibel level. It's actually quite easy, just some coding and measuring. Nothing Apple can't handle with a coder and a sound engineer assigned part time. The lawyers are probably more expensive than that.

Let me ask you this. Did you find it uncomfortable to stare at the sun? Did someone have to tell you not to? The same is true for listening to your music too loud. You'd have to be a little slow to not know when something is 'loud' and when it's not. I hear this all the time. You're sitting next to someone with ear buds in and you can actually hear the music from their ear buds. If they happen to be too stupid to realize that loud continuous noise will make them go deaf, then they have parents to step in. Our society has gotten off on blaming poor choices on someone else. It's about time people started being held responsible for their own actions.

I consider this natural selection. It's a shame we don't have any natural Urban predators to take them out once they go deaf from stupidity.
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post #20 of 35
Get a pair of good IEMs (In Ear Monitors) from SHURE, Weston, Ultimate Ears, Etymotic Research, etc. You can even have a pair of IEMs custom made in the shape of your ear canal for a perfect fit. You will never have to turn the volume up really high to enjoy your musics on the run.

And, people should take personal responsibility on their daily life including but not limited to fatty food, music loudness, exercise, etc. Too much of even a good thing will harm you.
post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Let me ask you this. Did you find it uncomfortable to stare at the sun? Did someone have to tell you not to? The same is true for listening to your music too loud...

No, it's not!

You insist on missing the point. Please read up on long-term hearing loss. Loudness that can cause damage is not always obvious.

Also, why do you find it such a tough requirement for Apple to put their volume limiting control in decibels? Is this really so difficultfor Apple? No.

By the way, I already said this particular suit was stupid. I'm just saying Apple could do things better, as it is supposed to, according to itself.
post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

No, it's not!

You insist on missing the point. Please read up on long-term hearing loss. Loudness that can cause damage is not always obvious.

Also, why do you find it such a tough requirement for Apple to put their volume limiting control in decibels? Is this really so difficultfor Apple? No.

By the way, I already said this particular suit was stupid. I'm just saying Apple could do things better, as it is supposed to, according to itself.

No, I simply don't make stupid choices to listen to music too loud. I don't have to do anything except turn the volume down. Takes all of 2 seconds. This is just a bunch of fools trying to make money off of blatant stupidity.
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post #23 of 35
Do you really need someone to tell you that something as loud as a chainsaw might damage your ears? The human ear starts to register pain at about 120 decibels.

Hearing loss can occur with regular exposure to noise levels of 110 decibels or more for periods longer than one minute. At 100 it takes about 2 hours before damage can occur. At 90 it takes about 8 hours of exposure.

Here is a list of common noises and their decibel levels:

* Aircraft at take-off (180)
* Fireworks (140)
* Snowmobile (120)
* Loud Rock Concert (115)
* Chain saw (110)
* Amplified music (110)
* Pneumatic drill/jackhammer (100)
* Lawn mower (90)
* Noisy office (90)
* Vacuum cleaner (80)
* City traffic (80)
* Normal conversation (60)
* Refrigerator humming (40)
* Whisper (20)
* Leaves rustling (10)
* Calm breathing (10)
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post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Do you really need someone to tell you that something as loud as a chainsaw might damage your ears? The human ear starts to register pain at about 120 decibels.

Hearing loss can occur with regular exposure to noise levels of 110 decibels or more for periods longer than one minute. At 100 it takes about 2 hours before damage can occur. At 90 it takes about 8 hours of exposure.

Here is a list of common noises and their decibel levels:

Aren't you contradicting yourself? You are saying pain is felt at 120 decibels, but hearing damage occurs with long exposures at only 90.

Isn't this my very point? Is your ear so sophisticated you can distinguish between say 80 decibels and 90? Mine is not. Sure, I can avoid 120, but 90 is not at all obvious, especially if you are in a noisy environment.

And you still give me no reason Apple can't just fix this. Put the decibels on the limiter bar, let the user do what he wants.
post #25 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

Aren't you contradicting yourself. You are saying pain is felt at 120 decibels, but hearing damage occurs with long exposures at only 90.

Isn't this my very point? Is your ear so sophisticated you can distinguish between say 80 decibels and 90? Mine is not. Sure, I can avoid 120, but 90 is not at all obvious, especially if you are in a noisy environment.

And you still give me no reason Apple can't just fix this. Put the decibels on the limiter bar, let the user do what he wants.

Not at all. Do you find listening to a saw pleasant? No you don't. It makes you wince. Noise doesn't just suddenly cause pain when it reaches a certain threshold with no effects before hand. It causes irritation, just like hot water will on skin.

Decibels are not a linear scale. They are exponential. You can absolutely tell the difference between 80 and 90. 90 decibels is twice as loud as 80 decibels.

Someone who inflicts loud noise on themselves for extended periods of time, knowing that loud noise will cause damage is a fool.

As to Apple fixing it, have you even used an Apple iPod? They already include a volume limiter in the iTunes preferences.
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post #26 of 35
I hope they had to pay all of Apple's costs in defending the case too!
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post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

Decibels are not a linear scale. They are exponential. You can absolutely tell the difference between 80 and 90. 90 decibels is twice as loud as 80 decibels.

Someone who inflicts loud noise on themselves for extended periods of time, knowing that loud noise will cause damage is a fool.

As to Apple fixing it, have you even used an Apple iPod? They already include a volume limiter in the iTunes preferences.

I have an iPhone and two iPods. The volume limiter has no units, no scale. I'd like to limit the volume to 75dB, but I can't do that. I have to guess. I have my limiter set at just a bit over 50%, maybe 60%. As a result, I cannot hear a podcast when I am walking down a street and a car goes by.

Am I being too cautious? If so, I am missing the ability to hear content in situations where I could safely do so. But since Apple does not provide a meaningful scale, I have to err on the side of caution. This is annoying and there is no good reason for it, except lazy design.

As for knowing the difference between 80 and 90 dB, you just don't know it. Sure, if I told you a sound was at 80, and then played another at 90, you'd be able to tell. But if I simply played a sound at 80 or 90, without giving you any other reference, you would not be able to know the difference. This is why people often don't realize just how loud they have set their iPod, Walkman, or whatever. Volume perception is relative, because the ear, like the eye, has self-adjusting variable gain.

In the analog days a decibel volume limiter would have been a costly addition of circuitry. Today it is just a software change. There is no excuse not to have it, especially in a premium product.
post #28 of 35
I purchased the third generation iPod in 2003. It had no volume control and if there were any warnings about hearing loss, I missed them. Though as Alonso Perez mentioned, the volume controls are still inadequate. Instead of putting the decibels associated with the volume control, the iPod and ear buds should be designed so the maximum noise level is 80 decibels. That way it is nearly impossible for someone to suffer permanent hearing damage due to an Apple product.

Here is my story. One morning I decided to try using the iPod on the commuter train to downtown Chicago. To hear music through the Apple ear buds while riding the train, the volume needs to be cranked up. In my case, I cranked it up to nearly full volume, but it did not seem that loud because of the competing train noise through the ear buds. I did not realize how loud the music was actually set, until I got off the train. As soon as I was off the train and removed the ear buds, I first experienced the ringing in my ears. The ringing has been with me ever since. A couple of months ago I had hearing tests performed and it was told I should have a hearing aid.

I am a fan of Apple's. I purchase Apple products and own stock. But in the case ofthe iPod and ear bud volume, Apple is extremely irresponsible and should not manufacturer a product that can easily cause permanent damage.
post #29 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by flippysc View Post

I purchased the third generation iPod in 2003. It had no volume control and if there were any warnings about hearing loss, I missed them. Though as Alonso Perez mentioned, the volume controls are still inadequate. Instead of putting the decibels associated with the volume control, the iPod and ear buds should be designed so the maximum noise level is 80 decibels. That way it is nearly impossible for someone to suffer permanent hearing damage due to an Apple product.

Here is my story. One morning I decided to try using the iPod on the commuter train to downtown Chicago. To hear music through the Apple ear buds while riding the train, the volume needs to be cranked up. In my case, I cranked it up to nearly full volume, but it did not seem that loud because of the competing train noise through the ear buds. I did not realize how loud the music was actually set, until I got off the train. As soon as I was off the train and removed the ear buds, I first experienced the ringing in my ears. The ringing has been with me ever since. A couple of months ago I had hearing tests performed and it was told I should have a hearing aid.

I am a fan of Apple's. I purchase Apple products and own stock. But in the case ofthe iPod and ear bud volume, Apple is extremely irresponsible and should not manufacturer a product that can easily cause permanent damage.

A nice 'story' for your first post. Puppet much?

In any case, it's still your fault for not reading the warnings on the package. Every iPod comes with warnings about the potential for hearing loss. If you don't read the warnings, it's your fault. The court agrees.

Amazing that you're practically deaf, but the case itself couldn't prove a single person had lost their hearing as a result of iPod use. Perhaps your puppet didn't get the memo?
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post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

A nice 'story' for your first post. Puppet much?

In any case, it's still your fault for not reading the warnings on the package. Every iPod comes with warnings about the potential for hearing loss. If you don't read the warnings, it's your fault. The court agrees.

Amazing that you're practically deaf, but the case itself couldn't prove a single person had lost their hearing as a result of iPod use. Perhaps your puppet didn't get the memo?

To refute what I infer from your message, what I wrote in the previous post was the truth and I needed no one to aid or advice me. Until yesterday, I did not know the suit existed and have yet delved into it's details. I have been a long-time viewer of AppleInsider and the subject of iPod hearing loss is very personal. I agreed with much of what Alonso Perez wrote and wanted to substantiate it by sharing my experience.

As far as I can tell, there are no warnings of hearing damage on the package, device or "Getting Started" directions. I am at fault for putting my trust in Apple. I believed that if I used their product as intended, I would not be injured -- I was wrong.
post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by flippysc View Post

To refute what I infer from your message, what I wrote in the previous post was the truth and I needed no one to aid or advice me. Until yesterday, I did not know the suit existed and have yet delved into it's details. I have been a long-time viewer of AppleInsider and the subject of iPod hearing loss is very personal. I agreed with much of what Alonso Perez wrote and wanted to substantiate it by sharing my experience.

As far as I can tell, there are no warnings of hearing damage on the package, device or "Getting Started" directions. I am at fault for putting my trust in Apple. I believed that if I used their product as intended, I would not be injured -- I was wrong.

Can you tell me what's on page 58 of the user manual? Is it something like...

Quote:
Avoid Hearing Damage

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 volume to a safe level
before that happens. If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce the volume or
discontinue use of your iPod.
post #32 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richmeister View Post

Can you tell me what's on page 58 of the user manual? Is it something like...

<sarcasm>But that would make him or her responsible, and we don't want to hear that...easier to just sue someone else...</sarcasm>
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post #33 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richmeister View Post

Can you tell me what's on page 58 of the user manual? Is it something like...

Putting a warning on page 58, particularly if there are more pages that follow page 58, is irresponsible and not standard practice of manufacturers. I gathered up as many user manuals as I could find and everyone of the product warnings is in a prominent location, except for Apple. Most are either on the first page or if there is a cover, on the backside of the front cover or the 1st page inside cover. Kenmore Washer has page 4 of 84 devoted to warnings (page 1 is the cover, page 2 is TOC and protection Agreements,and page 3 is warranty). None of these products have warnings buried on page 58. These manuals include a Sony TV, Polaraoid Photo Picture Frame, Onkyo AV Receiver, Phillips DVD player, Panasonic VCR, Sony CD/DVD player, GE Cooktop, Weber Gas Grill, GE Dishwasher, Black and Decker Food/Rice Cooker, Whirlpool Convection Oven, Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker, Kuerig Brewer, Oster Automatic Can Opener, GE Microwave Oven, Edsal Super Rack Boltless Shelving, Bosch Rangefinder, Timex Alarm Clock, Craftsman LED Work Light, Kvart Light by Ikea, and my 27 year-old Rollei P 350 slide projector that has a special warning page in English attached before the German instructions. My Apple IIsi does have an FCC warning on the inside of the cover, but nothing about consumer safety.

Regardless, I followed the instructions that are in the manual you have. (I have the iPod Mini manual as a reference that is about 38 pages and with no warnings regarding hearing loss.) While on the train, I increased the volume without noticing any ringing (or pain or discomfort) -- so it must have been a safe level according to Apple. I did not hear the ringing in my ears until after I removed the iPod.

Of course a better solution for the iPod, then better warnings, is to manufacturer the product safer, so the warnings are not needed at all.
post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJRumpy View Post

<sarcasm>But that would make him or her responsible, and we don't want to hear that...easier to just sue someone else...</sarcasm>

I never considered suing anyone, but after reading your post, maybe I should.
post #35 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post

Mind you, I think this particular suit, being so vague, should have been rejected.

But at the same time, Apple could do much better, with a little extra effort. The limiter should be in decibels.

Sound exposure limits are in decibels. If you set the current limiter you don't really know what your exposure is, since it is expressed in an arbitrary scale.

Apple already has implemented volume matching with Sound Check. To measure in decibels they would simply need to measure the output of their headphones. You would select the model on your iPod, and newer iPods and headphones could be designed to identify the model automatically.

Apple could certify third party headphones and add them to it's database. The third party certification process could provide revenue to fund the effort.

A decibel limiter is the right thing to do. It would present a very high legal barrier to future lawsuits, and it would be the kind of high quality detail that belongs in an Apple product.

And make no mistake, the suits will come. Apple is a big target and a lot of people will suffer hearing loss, but they will only realize this when they hit their late 30's or 40's, since the damage is cumulative and slow at first.


Unless you are using a custom fitted earphone, there is no way to know how close the speaker is going to be from an individual's ear drum, or how tight the ear bud is going to fit into the canal. So using the same volume setting and earbuds, the sound waves that reach my eardrum might be at a safe sound pressure, but for you the sound pressure might be enough to permanently damage your hearing. There is no way for Apple (or any other company for that matter), to know how many decibels would actually be reaching various individuals ears, so having the sound settings listed in decibels would actually make them more vulnerable to lawsuits.
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