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Apple Sued Over Potential Hearing Loss 754

Posted by Zonk
from the so-turn-it-down dept.
freaktheclown writes "A man is suing Apple, claiming that the iPod can cause hearing loss for those who use it." From the article: "The iPod players are 'inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss,' according to the complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., on behalf of John Kiel Patterson of Louisiana. The suit, which Patterson wants certified as a class-action, seeks compensation for unspecified damages and upgrades that will make iPods safer."
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Apple Sued Over Potential Hearing Loss

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  • Stop (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MountainMan101 (714389) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:57AM (#14625083)
    The world has enough proof that there is no intelligent life in the US.
  • If he gets Apple, then I'm calling iRiver for the damage they've done to my hearing.
  • It was his choice. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bomarrow1 (903375) * <bomarrow1.gmail@com> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:57AM (#14625090) Homepage
    Well too me this seems rather unfair on Apple.
    In short he had the volume control and it was in his power to change it to the correct level for him.

    It sounds all too like the person who burgled and empty house and fell though the rotten floor boards. Then he sued.

    He shouldn't have had the volume high enough to damage his hearing anyway.

    It seems like saying I should sue /. for keeping me a wake all night to try and get first posts.

    I'm sure if he wins many more will follow though.Could this be the demise of Apple?
    • by rbochan (827946) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:10AM (#14625217) Homepage
      ... they want their lawsuit back.
      Wasn't the same thing done over the Sony Walkman?

    • It seems like saying I should sue /. for keeping me a wake all night to try and get first posts.

      And then you post and come in second.. Oh, the humanity...

    • by grub (11606)

      It sounds all too like the person who burgled and empty house and fell though the rotten floor boards. Then he sued.

      The place I was working at 20 years ago (I know the time as I was working there when Challenger happened) had a burgler come through an air conditioning duct. He dropped in the darkness to the floor but caught one foot on a desk (ouch). He snapped his ankle. To make a long story short, he sued the company for not having decent night lighting and won a small amount of cash.
    • by catwh0re (540371) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:27AM (#14625412)
      Not so much a case for Apple, the iPod follows the guidelines for maximum volume output. For example, when it was discovered that the iPod didn't qualify for the European specification (it was off a few db) Apple released a patch for the iPod to lower it's maximum volume output.

      Cases like these aren't generally successful as there is a lot of precedent, this same case has been tried against Sony for their walkman product.

      The conclusion at the end of the day is that it's a difficult case to prove that the iPod caused your hearing loss, and not any of the other environmental factors in your every day life.. afterall there are many iPod owners without hearing loss.

  • Luckily the speakers used in Apple's PowerBooks and iBooks are specifically designed to not cause hearing loss, or they'd really be screwed.
  • ignorant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbucowboy (891058) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:57AM (#14625093) Homepage
    This just shows how ignorant people can be... it's like suing the maker of a handgun because you were careless with it. Take responsibility for your actions people... if you listen to your iPod too loud then deal with the consequences of your stupidity.
    • by Mille Mots (865955) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:08AM (#14625199)
      This just shows how ignorant people can be... it's like suing the maker of a handgun because you were careless with it. Take responsibility for your actions people... if you listen to your iPod too loud then deal with the consequences of your stupidity.

      I can only assume that you haven't paid attention to the goings-on in the US for the last, oh, two point five decades or so. There is no need to assume responsibility for your actions, as long as you can find a lawyer (you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one) to plead your case. The goal isn't to win a trial, but to win a settlement. Cash in, as it were. There's a whole industry built around these nuisance suits. The worst part is that the ones that do go to a jury trial are likely to be succesful anyway as the jurors apparently sit there thinking, 'Well, if we give this guy a big award, when it's our turn...' Entitlement mentality.

      On top of that, you get the 'junk science' lawsuits. Dow Corning and the silicone breast implant bankruptcy is a prime example. There never was and is not any scientific evidence that silicone breast implants lead to any of the medical conditions (real or imagined) that were the cause of those lawsuits. I believe there are still silicone implants available, too (although DC is no longer maufacturing them).

      Some times I think I went to bed last night in one timeline. A timeline where normal, common sense prevails. Yet, somehow I've woken up in another timeline. One where everything is slightly off kilter. Not enough to be grossly disorienting, but just enough to be maddeningly noticeable.

      --
      Sig sour

      • Blame the insurers (Score:5, Interesting)

        by metamatic (202216) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @12:04PM (#14626425) Homepage Journal
        In fact, it's probably not entirely his fault either. He probably went to the doctor with hearing problems, had expensive tests and treatments, and then his insurer asked him to sue Apple. That's the way it works.

        I accidentally cut my finger open using a Leatherman tool, and had to go to the ER. When it came time to pay up, my insurance company sent me a letter asking where the accident occurred, what products were involved, and asking me to sue anyone who might be liable in order to recoup the costs. The letter really didn't have a checkbox for "It was my own stupid fault"; it just assumed that it would be possible to sue somebody.

        I wrote "It was my own stupid fault" on the form and sent it back... but don't be surprised if you see someone suing Leatherman for making knives sharp enough to cut into fingers.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:58AM (#14625097) Homepage Journal

    Good idea!

    I'll start suing the manufacturers of the various amplifiers, receivers, and speakers I've had over the past ~25 years of brutalizing my ears. And I'll name all the bands, especially Motorhead, who have given me pleasure in a separate suit!

    My hearing probably isn't what it should be but the last thing I'd consider doing is suing the product makers.

    written as the sweet sounds of Slayer fill my office... :)
    • My hearing probably isn't what it should be but the last thing I'd consider doing is suing the product makers.

      written as the sweet sounds of Slayer fill my office... :)


      So, what, you're suing Slayer, then?
    • by atomic_toaster (840941) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:22AM (#14625355)
      I'll start suing the manufacturers of the various amplifiers, receivers, and speakers I've had over the past ~25 years of brutalizing my ears.

      Common sense isn't; apparently, it isn't a logical conclusion to think that plugging loud music directly into your ears could possibly lead to hearing loss. Who knew?

      Oh, and from page 63 of the Apple user manual for 5th generation iPods: [apple.com]

      "To avoid hearing damage, set your iPod volume to a safe level. If you experience ringing in your ears, reduce volume or discontinue use of your iPod. 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 that may sound normal but can be damaging to your hearing. If you experience ringing in your ears or muffled speech, stop listening and have your hearing checked. The louder the volume, the less time is required before your hearing could be affected. Hearing experts suggest that to protect your hearing..."

      Yadda yadda yadda. Basically, this guy doesn't have a leg to stand on.
      • Yadda yadda yadda. Basically, this guy doesn't have a leg to stand on.

        So a disclaimer solves everything? Neat. This could put a stop to any and all lawsuits: http://www.arcarmichael.com/ultimatedisclaimer.htm [arcarmichael.com]

        Disclaimer:
        This product is meant for educational purposes only. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Void where prohibited. Some assembly required. List each check separately by bank number. Batteries not included. Contents may settle during shipment. Use only as dire
  • Shenanigans (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Only Druid (587299) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @09:59AM (#14625107)
    There are at least a few problems here (all of which have been discussed over the months since the first of these ridiculous complaints):

    First, I've seen ZERO evidence that this has anything to with the iPod per se as opposed to just the nature of in-ear earphones.

    Second, you only incur damage if you play the sound too loud. We've been quite saturated with information on that sort of effect for decades (Townshend?). If you cant figure out that it doesn't matter where the sound is coming from, just how loud it is, then screw you.

    There's more, but this alone is enough to dismiss this crap...
  • So... don't turn the volume all the way up, moron?

    Personal accountability is dead.
    • " So... don't turn the volume all the way up, moron?

      I didn't. I only put it up to ten, and I still was damaged. (Mine goes to eleven).
  • I am going to mail a large salami to the judge, in hopes that he will use it to smack the plaintiff.

  • If the problem was related to a bug in the iPod software whereby the volume would jump, or max itself out then I think he'd have a case.

    Me, I don't really want Apple to add a volume restriction like they have on the European ones. It doesn't analyze the signal volume, it simply restricts the maximum volume the user can select. Thereby limiting the amount you can hear on an otherwise quite recording (of Classical music for example).

    This is the kind of guy who would sue because he stuck his tongue on a metal
    • This is the kind of guy who would sue because he stuck his tongue on a metal pole when it's significantly below freezing.

      In other news, the suit has been amended to include a mysterious defendant who "triple-dog-dared" the plaintiff. More on this as it develops.
    • Max volume controlled by the player is only half the equation. The resistance in the headphones is the other half. This is realted to matched impedance in amplifiers, but I'll simplify it for people who aren't EE's. If you have two different headphones with two different resistances in them (unless you purposely choose two specific resistances), they will not have the same volume at the same setting in a music player. This is similar to home theater speakers that have 4 and 8 ohm impedances.

      Crappier
  • Boy, this sounds an awful lot like a plot line from Steve Martin's The Jerk. [imdb.com] His character invents these cool grippy glasses and makes a million or two. Later he's sued because everyone gets crosseyed for wearing the glasses.
  • The result of this will be less choice for iPod buyers. The iPods will be artificially limited so you can't play them very loud.

    Lawsuit reform anyone?
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:03AM (#14625152) Journal
    He's infringing my patent: US PAT 99846321-666 "A method for obtaining stupidly large amounts of financial compensation from commercial organisations by suing them because they failed to point out (rightly or otherwise) something mind-numbingly obvious about a potential (real or otherwise) hazard related to the use of their product/s that anyone with a small degree of common sense would be competent to identify for themselves and thus take appropriate action."
  • The article claims it takes 28 seconds to damage your hearing at the loudest setting. That's plenty of time to take the earphones off, or lower the volume. If the iPod damaged hearing in under 1 or 2 seconds I could see how that would be an inherent flaw in the device as anyone can make that mistake by accident.

    Obviously that's not the case, so I'd be surprised if this suit gets any father than dumb headlines on slashdot.
  • Louder please! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by antonpiatek (223233) <anton&piatek,co,uk> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:05AM (#14625173) Homepage
    Actually I want my iPod to go louder.

    If I have a big pair of earphones on, then the iPod doesn't really have enough power to drive them. I have heard a rumor that a US firmware (as opposed to EU) will give it more volume (apparently the EU has a law that forces output to be capped at a *safe* level), but I have been unable to find any regional firmware at all.
    • Re:Louder please! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rmpotter (177221)
      ...or perhaps you want it to be louder because you _already_ have hearing loss. Have you had your hearing checked lately?
    • Re:Louder please! (Score:5, Informative)

      by sebi (152185) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:20AM (#14625332)
      I'm not taking any responsibility for what happens, but you might want to go and check out this here site [free-go.net]. They offer a little program that uncaps the maximum volume restriction on European ipods.
    • Re:Louder please! (Score:3, Informative)

      by blakestah (91866)
      The volume coming out of headphones is determined by the speaker impedance, not its size. In any case, all headphones are designed to work with the same range of signal, so if your headphones can't get loud enough, you know to blame the headphone designer....or maybe he is afraid of getting sued?

      Earbuds can boost the signal by 20 dB. Lots of listening to loud music will cause, mostly, long-term damage, although it appears exposure when you are young causes more damage than the same exposure when you are old
      • Re:Louder please! (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chirs (87576)
        "In any case, all headphones are designed to work with the same range of signal..."

        In a word, no.

        Headphones span an impedence range of 32 Ohm (or maybe even less) all the way up to 600 Ohms and higher in the case of studio headphones. On top of that you have variations in the sensitivity.

        This means that with some headphones you can deafen yourself with the output jack from an ipod, while others (AKG K-1000 for instance) you basically need a small speaker amplifier to drive them at reasonable levels.
    • by metamatic (202216)
      Even ignoring loudness, the iPod has issues driving headphones. Bass, in particular, is mushy. I got an Xin Mini, it's about the size of a box of matches, takes 3xAAA cells, and will comfortably drive a pair of full-size Sennheisers. It also has a binaural crossover circuit, so the stereo image sounds much better.
  • First I live here in the USA and I love it here but....

    People here are morons looking for a quick buck. I was amazed when I learned about the man who used his lawnmower to trim his hedges and then sued the lawnmower company when he hurt himself because there were no safetys or warning labels.

    People need to start owning up to their own actions and stop expecting other people (in this case apple) to hold their hand.

    I really wish judges could make the accuser pay for the legal teams of the other company for st
  • ...can lack of common sense be basis for a law suit.
  • Patterson does not know if the device has damaged his hearing, said his attorney, Steve W. Berman, of Seattle. But that's beside the point of the lawsuit, which takes issue with the potential the iPod has to cause irreparable hearing loss, Berman said. - of-course it is beside the point. The point is this dude wants a shit-load of money he did not deserve and he is prepared to be a litigious bastard to get it, truth be damned!

    I hope Steve Jobs doesn't give in and sticks this lawsuit into this guy's ass lik
  • For mass-producing pop music so bad it makes me want to shove sharp objects in my ear just so I won't have to hear it anymore?
  • by Per Wigren (5315)
    I have tinitus since 1996. I don't hear it (or more correctly, think about it) when there is some background noise but it's driving me mad when it's silent. My hearing is still very good though, on the non-damaged frequences. My tinitus has made me much more sensitive to loud volumes than I was before 1996. I frequently go to clubs and concerts and but I hate it when they crank the volume too high, although using ear plugs helps. I like moderate volume.

    That said, I have a 60GB iPod Video which I use every d
  • But they did come with a warning to not steal music. It must be only the illegal downloads that harm hearing!
    • Errr...

      I remember reading a warning about hearing loss when I unpacked my iPod.

      Maybe you should have to prove you can read before you buy one?
  • So it can cause hearing loss, all the while killing cancer [slashdot.org]. Sounds more like a feature than a bug!
  • I would sue Slashdot for not allowing me to work with my fullest ability, anybody with me?
  • by jersey_emt (846314) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:12AM (#14625247) Homepage
    Every single set of headphones/earphones has a different sensitivity level. That is, feed the same amount of power to 2 different sets of phones, and one will be louder than the other because of the efficiency of the speaker drivers which convert electricity into vibrations.

    Basically, at a given volume level on the portable player (say 75% of total) may produce 80 dB of sound output with Brand X headphones and 84 dB of sound output with Brand Y.

    IMO if you damage your hearing it is your own damn fault. It is quite easy to tell if you are listening to something that is too loud. If your ears always ring after you listen to a couple of MP3's on your portable player, turn the freaking volume down, nimwit. Same deal if your ears bleed....
  • A class-action lawsuit has been formed by fat people against the Acme Spoon Company, on the claims that their products were insufficiently labeled that excessive use of their product might make someone gain weight.
  • Let's form an organization "Common Sense Of the Commons" and file an amicus curiae.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:18AM (#14625314)
    Apple has countersued John Kiel Patterson's finger for moving the iPod's volume beyond the 93db range, which has possibly caused damage to his hearing.

    His finger will be required to testify in court that it indeed did raise the volume beyond acceptable levels, his ears were also subpoenaed in to testify about their injuries.

    Noone is sure about Patterson's brain, it has gone missing and possibly is living out of the country.
  • by Androclese (627848) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @10:24AM (#14625378)
    "The iPod players are 'inherently defective in design and are not sufficiently adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss..."

    So basically, he's telling us that if there was a big sticker pasted on the side that said "Hey, Asshat, don't turn it up too loud, you will lose your hearing!" that everything would have been OK, and he would not have sued?

    *sigh*

    What an asshat.
  • kill the lawyers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scharkalvin (72228) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @11:58AM (#14626353) Homepage
    At one time people took responsibility for their own actions and products were MUCH more dangerous.
    The lawyers will argue that by bringing up all the product lawsuits we now have safer cars, and
    other products. But lawsuits are still brought against companies whose products are missused by
    stupid people. There has to be a limit some where.

    ALL headphones, ear buds or over the ear types, can cause hearing damage by delivering a sound level
    that's too high. Listening with speakers can cause the same damage too (while peeling the paint
    off the walls and cracking the windows). I suppose a form of active feedback could be added to
    headphones with a transducer to measure the sound level being delivered to the ear and back off the
    volume before it reaches the danger point. Would consumers buy such a product? (that would be like
    having a car that wouldn't go above 55mph by having a speed regulator. Some trucking companies actually
    put such a gizmo in their trucks to keep their drivers honest). Would you like the government to demand
    that makers of portable audio players put such a circuit into such players?

    At some point our tort system exists only to make a profit for the lawyers and for "whiplash Willies" to
    abuse the system for a quick buck. The small aircraft business was almost destroyed by product liability
    lawsuits. Those cases involved 20-50 year old planes that were built before todays standards were
    developed. How can you justify calling such a product "defective"? Should you be allowed to sue Ford if you were hurt when your 80 year old model "T"'s gas tank exploded today?
  • by rspress (623984) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:22PM (#14629229) Homepage
    Since this guy singled out Apple rather than all earbud makers or all media players shipped with earbuds Apple should counter sue claiming what this lawsuit is, a nuisance lawsuit.

    If Apple needs a witness I have been using my iPod for years and at full volume and I have not lost my hearing at all.

  • Annoying (Score:3, Funny)

    by thedillybar (677116) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @04:23PM (#14629244)
    These warnings can be very annoying. On my Sony Ericsson, every time I hit SPEAKERPHONE, I must confirm that I am aware that this may damage my hearing. AFAIK, there is no way to permanently shut this reminder off, presumably because someone else could pick up my phone and not receive the warning.

    This is slowly getting out of control...

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