Apple iPod Hearing Loss Case Dismissed, Court Rules

Dennis Faas's picture

Is Apple to blame for hearing loss as a result of listening to one's iPod too loud? No, says a federal appeals court.

The decision came this week and upholds the original dismissal of a lawsuit that claimed Apple's popular digital media device and the headsets sold along with it were defective and could cause permanent hearing loss -- without warning of such a possibility.

Original Suits Filed in 2006

The original suit was filed by a disgruntled Louisiana iPod buyer and then supported by a similar claim in California in 2006. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, judges found that neither succeeded in showing that the devices were faulty.

The angry customers claimed that Apple's iPod could play its music at 104 decibels, a level of noise on par with helicopters or lawn mowers. True, Apple does state in its manual that users should be careful when increasing the device's volume levels, but the customers argued that nowhere did the company make explicitly clear just how loud that volume could go, and what the damages to one's hearing could be.

Courts: Consumers Must Use Common Sense

All of this sounds strangely familiar to the now infamous 2003 McDonald's fast food case, where plaintiffs alleged that the company did not provide ample warning that its product could make customers fat. This recent Apple decision confirms that most U.S. judges believe that consumers must adopt some of the blame for the misuse of a particular product.

In responding to the plaintiffs' allegations that the Apple iPod should have been packaged with some description of its volume potential, a three-judge panel noted that "Such statements suggest only that users have the option of using an iPod in a risky manner, not that the product lacks any minimum level of quality." (Source:

Volume-Limiting Software Available

Aware that these kinds of complaints were possible, Apple in 2006 released software that allowed parents to limit the volume on their kids' iPods.

In concluding, the judges argued that the plaintiffs had failed to show the iPod was a dangerous device. "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." (Source:

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