IPods receive new volume controls

May Wong Associated Press Mar. 30, 2006 12:00 AM

SAN JOSE - Apparently, Apple Computer Inc. is listening.

In a world where hearing problems are real, concerns are mounting and lawyers are looking to make gadget providers liable, the maker of the predominant iPod music player has created new volume controls.

Apple issued a software update Wednesday for its recent iPod models, the Nano and the video-capable iPod, allowing users to set how loud their digital music players can go.

Parents also can use the feature to impose a maximum volume on their child's iPod and lock it with a code.

Sandy Liao, a Fremont, Calif., mother of two, welcomed the development, although she wants to see Apple eventually add the feature to the models she has, the iPod Shuffle.

She had specifically avoided buying her children any kind of portable music player out of concern they would damage their ears, but a friend gave a Shuffle to each of her children, ages 9 and 10, as gifts last year.

"It would be great if I could get the volume controls for them, too," she said.

Apple representatives said little about why they made the change, issuing only a statement.

The devices can produce sounds of more than 115 decibels, a volume that can damage the hearing of a person exposed to the sound for more than 28 seconds per day, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

Although the iPod is more popular than other types of portable music players, its ability to cause hearing loss isn't any higher, experts said.

More than 25 million Americans, or about 10 percent of the U.S. population, suffer from hearing loss that adversely affects their lives, said Jennifer Weber, an audiology professor at the University of Northern Colorado.

"Any excessive sound level has the potential of causing hearing damage, whether it's an iPod or a Walkman, or a loud hair dryer," Weber said.

Apple has sold more than 42 million iPods since the original model debuted in October 2001. More than 30 million of those sales were posted last year after Apple introduced the iPod Shuffle and replaced its hot-selling iPod mini with the iPod Nano.

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