Amber Alert on AirPods damaged teenager's hearing, lawsuit claims

Posted:
in General Discussion
The parents of a teenage boy in Texas claim in a new lawsuit that Apple's AirPods ruptured his eardrums when a loud Amber Alert was issued.

AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro


Reportedly, the 12-year-old boy, who is referred to as B.G. in the complaint, was watching Netflix on his iPhone while using AirPods Pro when an Amber Alert sounded. The high-pitched noise reportedly damaged his eardrums.

According to the complaint, the sound "tore apart" the boy's eardrums, damaged his cochlea, and caused permanent hearing loss in one ear. Since the incident, which occurred in 2020, B.G. has allegedly suffered from vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus, and nausea, Law360 has reported.

The lawsuit claims that Apple makes "defective" audio accessories that don't automatically lower the volume for alerts. It also goes after the iPhone maker for not issuing a warning about the potential for hearing loss or damage.

Amber Alerts, which are warning messages alerting residents to a child abduction emergency, are automatically sent to smartphones. User reports do corroborate the fact that Amber Alerts come through loudly on AirPods, and may not equalized to the volume of the c content a user is watching.

The complaint seeks damages for B.G. "in amounts would punish Defendants for their conduct and which would deter other technology companies from engaging in such misconduct in the future," among other prayers for relief.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    Anilu_777Anilu_777 Posts: 384member
    I’m calling bullshit. No way a loud sound even at the limit of the AirPods’ capability can “tear” an eardrum. I’d like to see the hearing test and MRI. 
    mike1techaccidentnetroxlongpathzeus423lkruppAlex1N
  • Reply 2 of 27
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,006member
    As a professional scuba instructor that is very well versed in all things eardrums, I call complete B.S. on their claims.  Rupturing eardrums from an Amber alert?  Yeah right.

    There has to be a point where frivolous lawsuits like these have to be clamped down.  Not only should the parents pay for Apple's court costs, but those ambulance-chasing lawyers that file them only to be tossed need to have face disciplinary actions from the board for wasting everyone's time.
    netroxtechaccidentlongpathlkruppAlex1NiOS_Guy80laytechDAalsethDogperson
  • Reply 3 of 27
    Agreed with Anilu_777: loud sounds don't cause eardrums to tear, especially the levels that AirPods can deliver. 

    To get real hearing damage from a sound source in a short time, it needs to be really, really loud. Like a gunshot near your head loud. An Amber alert may be loud enough to be uncomfortable, but that's about it. I doubt sincerely that AirPods are capable of producing sounds in excess of 120dBSPL in the ear, as that would far exceed design parameters.

    Reference: a really loud concert is about 110dB, or half as loud as 120dB (perceptually). Certainly attending a lot of 110dBSPL shows will damage hearing, but not instantaneously and certainly not with the result of ruptured eardrums. One Amber alert isn't anywhere close.
    netroxlongpathmangakattenAlex1NFileMakerFellerDogperson
  • Reply 4 of 27
    frankiefrankie Posts: 380member
    As someone who got hearing damage from a loud noise like this and now have to suffer with tinnitus for the rest of my life I can definitely see how this could happen.  The amber alerts are ridiculously loud.

    On a side note i can see how to disable them on the iPhone, but does anyone know how to turn them off on an iPad?

    Thanks for any info.
    Alex1NOferBeatsdope_ahmine
  • Reply 5 of 27
    kidrock2199kidrock2199 Posts: 142member
    I don’t know about bursting eardrums, that sounds a little excessive. But I can say that alerts do come in pretty loud in headphones. On my walks during my lunch break at work I regularly listen to podcasts or music and my text tone is that alien sounding one, so it’s kind of high pitch (I use loud ones because I work in a loud warehouse and would miss notifications with any of the softer tones) and it is loud enough to give me a little jolt when a text comes through. I usually use either my Powerbeats Pro or Beats Flex. 

    You know how alert tones are muted when they come through while you’re looking at the screen? That would be nice to have while wearing headphones. 

    As for amber alerts, they are VERY loud and come through so suddenly. It always annoyed and scared me, so I turned them off. Besides, every time I got one, it was always for a county 400 miles away! Thank god I never had kids. 
    dope_ahmine
  • Reply 6 of 27
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,706member
    Amber alerts are one of those virtuous ideas implemented badly. And how can one speak against them? They are for the children.
    that said, I find it hard to believe even an amber alert could burst an eardrum. Be  painful, yes I could believe that.  But not actually burst it.
    edited May 17 longpathzeus423Beatsdope_ahmineDAalseth
  • Reply 7 of 27
    longpathlongpath Posts: 386member
    I agree with the first two commenters that it seems implausible that an amber alert, while certainly shrill and unpleasantly loud, could cause an instantaneous rupture as described, when a gun shot or jackhammer do not. 

    That being said, I do think that it should be limited to a far lower sound pressure when using any type of earphones or ear buds. I have the reduce loud sounds limit set to 85dB; but I’m not at all confident that Amber Alerts abide by those limits.
    dope_ahmine
  • Reply 8 of 27
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,124member
    Thank goodness we don't have Amber Alerts here in Japan, but this does raise the question that neither the article nor the comments yet answers:

    HOW DOES ONE DISABLE THE ALERTS?

    As to the lawsuit, I think most suing is stupid.  Rather than turn the other cheek, Americans tend to get thrills from going to court over the least little thing.  If the boy's hearing was damaged, I suspect he had the volume cranked up too high in the first place, which only made the loud alert even worse.

    Logically speaking, in terms of who bears the most responsibility here (aside from the 12-year-old boy, who is a minor after all), would it not be those responsible for sending the Alerts in the first place?  I would think they bear the most responsibility.  If Apple bears any responsibility at all, it would be secondary responsibility, not primary.  How so?  Because in this case, one is asking Apple to help out people with a particular problem; namely, the problem of stupidly loud alerts entering the phone in the first place.  Now that the problem has been identified, it would be a nice perk if Apple could address it, but I think an email to Tim Cook would have been better than a lawsuit.  

    Alex1N
  • Reply 9 of 27
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,426member
    I had no idea these things even existed but couldn't they be implemented in a way that whatever you are listening to is dampened down a bit to let the alert take momentary priority on the sound stage? 
    Ofer
  • Reply 10 of 27
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 598member
    Only one of the issues with this lawsuit, 
    it doesn’t mention what level of volume the user had the AirPod Pro’s set?
    Did the user invite this supposed damage by setting the AirPod Pro to the supposed volume level?
    What damage to hearing did the user have before the incident?
    Oh, and I am insure Apple knew this… and hid it, inviting lawsuits…Geesh!!
    I am not a lawyer, but those are the immediate questions that came to mind.
    There are obviously too many lawyers or these lawyers really needed to pay the bills!
    edited May 17 longpath
  • Reply 11 of 27
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,168member
    jdw said:
    HOW DOES ONE DISABLE THE ALERTS?
    I would settle for just disabling the alerts while I'm asleep (when my Apple Watch is on my wrist while I'm asleep OR when it's on the charging stand beside my bed. I've been awoken by amber alerts in both cases.) Do I really need to be awoken by the police at 3AM when a child is missing 1000 miles away from me?
    zeus423baconstanglongpathdope_ahmine
  • Reply 12 of 27
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,431member
    jdw said:
    HOW DOES ONE DISABLE THE ALERTS?
    I would settle for just disabling the alerts while I'm asleep (when my Apple Watch is on my wrist while I'm asleep OR when it's on the charging stand beside my bed. I've been awoken by amber alerts in both cases.) Do I really need to be awoken by the police at 3AM when a child is missing 1000 miles away from me?
    Yup, that’s why I disabled them on mine too. I never received them during the day, it was always while sound asleep, and always from hundreds of miles away. 
    zeus423baconstangBeats
  • Reply 13 of 27
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,431member
    jdw said:
    HOW DOES ONE DISABLE THE ALERTS?

    In Settings, go to Notifications. Scroll to the very bottom and under “Government Alerts” click Amber Alerts “off”. Couldn’t be easier…(unless they put the Gov alerts on the top of the page).
    edited May 17 JaiOh81muthuk_vanalingamjdwDogpersongilly33
  • Reply 14 of 27
    So, how do you turn them off? Searching Amber in Settings shows Notifications, but nothing in there mentions them…

    aha, it’s a US only problem feature. https://www.imore.com/amber-alerts-your-iphone-what-they-are-and-how-manage-them
    JaiOh81
  • Reply 15 of 27
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,924member
    There’s a setting that you can set for the loudest sound one can hear and to reduce loud sounds. And Apple does warn users about the dangers of loud sounds. 
    JaiOh81
  • Reply 16 of 27
    waveparticlewaveparticle Posts: 1,047member
    jungmark said:
    There’s a setting that you can set for the loudest sound one can hear and to reduce loud sounds. And Apple does warn users about the dangers of loud sounds. 
    In settings->Sounds & haptics->Headphone Safety, one can set maximum decibel. When it is set, the maximum level is 100 decibels. If it is not set, is the maximum level 100 decibel? Is this loud enough to pierce the eardrum? 
    edited May 17 gilly33
  • Reply 17 of 27
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 929member
    WTF would a 12 y.o. have Amber alerts enabled?
  • Reply 18 of 27
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 929member
    jungmark said:
    There’s a setting that you can set for the loudest sound one can hear and to reduce loud sounds. And Apple does warn users about the dangers of loud sounds. 
    In settings->Sounds & haptics->Headphone Safety, one can set maximum decibel. When it is set, the maximum level is 100 decibels. If it is not set, is the maximum level 100 decibel? Is this loud enough to pierce the eardrum? 
    NO.
    entropys
  • Reply 19 of 27
    Amber alerts are obviously well intentioned. In the unlikely event I could help with one of them, of course I would like to do that. However, even without EarPods they are incredibly loud and shocking. I’ve been torn about disabling them. And as stated they are generally for an event happening very far away. I am curious if an amber alert on an iPhone has ever functioned as intended. Similarly, where I am there are alerts about elderly people who disappear or get lost, normally an unrealistically far distance away. Managing these alerts in a way that allowed control over volume would make me much more ready to check those alerts as they happen. 
  • Reply 20 of 27
    cpenzonecpenzone Posts: 111member
    While I do agree that damage is highly unlikely, Apple desperately needs to add individual alert volume controls in app settings. The Ring doorbell alert makes my ears bleed even when I have the volume set at normal listening levels. I would turn it down but the other apps are a comfortable volume at that level.
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