updated 03:40 pm EST, Wed March 29, 2006
Congressman lauds Apple
Democratic Representative Edward J. Markey today publicly lauded Apple for releasing its iPod software update that allows users to limit the volume on the popular music player. The software update followed several reports on possible hearing loss caused by the iPod and a recent lawsuit against the company. Markey, a senior official on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said that the move will help consumers protect themselves from hearing loss. "I commend Apple for taking this important first step in giving consumers the tools they need to protect themselves from possible hearing loss," said Rep. Markey. "There is no doubt that consumers have benefited from the remarkable innovation we have seen in portable music players over the past few years in terms of both choice and value, but we need to make sure to avoid preventable hearing damage that could turn consumers off to these devices permanently."
Earlier this year, a lawsuit against Apple claimed that the iPod causes hearing loss, that the company does not adequately warn users of the risks, and that the design of its white earbud phones excerbate inherent risks. That lawsuit, which noted that Apple was forced to pull the iPod from shelves in France and upgrade the software to limit the sound output to 100 decibels, is still pending.
The Congressman continued by saying that he hopes other manufacturers will follow, but noted the need for more research to determine the impact of such devices on hearing loss. Earlier this year, Markey sent a letter to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDOC) at the National Institutes of Health requesting a review of the available scientific information regarding the impact of portable music players.
"It is my hope that other portable music device manufacturers will follow Apple's lead and give consumers the chance to set the maximum volume at a safe level," Rep. Markey said in a statement obtained by MacNN.
"At the same time, further research is needed to determine with certainty the possibilities of noise induced hearing losses from these devices and safe limits for both volume and listening duration. The bottom line is that consumers need to know if they are at risk and what can be done to reduce the possibility of injury from these devices. Once consumers have this information they will be better able to use Apple's new technology to protect themselves."
Ironically, at least one report has claimed that Apple''s engineers increased the sound output because Apple CEO Steve Jobs is partially deaf.
Markey has been pivotal in the effort in Congress to prevent noise induced hearing loss from portable music players. In response to his January letter, the NIDOCD agreed that this was an area of concern, but said that "the limited nature of the available research prevents them from offering the type of firm recommendations that are needed to ensure that consumers are fully protected from the possibility of injury."