Paternalism and the iPod

Geoffrey Manne —  3 February 2006

ipodI know it’s like shooting fish in a barrel to go after the tort bar and the cult of litigation masquerading as paternalism (or is it paternalism masquerading as litigation?), but this is too ridiculous to forebear. Over at Tech Law Prof Blog, Mark Giangrande reports that Apple has been hit with a lawsuit claiming its iPods cause hearing loss. Mark has a nice summary here (nice mostly because it references a great scene in that great film starring the Ramones, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School:

While the iPod does have a volume control, it can reach levels of about 115 decibels. By comparison, power saws produce sounds at about 110 decibels, and jet engines produce sound at about 140 decibels. An interesting volume comparison chart from Galen Carol Audio is here. Another from the NIH is here. Check out Chapter 8 of the Rock And Roll High School DVD where Principal Togar (Mary Woronov) demonstrates the comparative volume of the Ramones on a hapless mouse. No one knows how loud the sound is for those spastic silhouettes in Apple’s commercials urging us to turn it up, or something like that.

OK. So, I own a iPod, and I’m speaking from experience here. When the music is too loud (which is rare, but I do feel a tad twitchy once in a while listening to Sleater-Kinney at full throttle), I TURN DOWN THE VOLUME.

That is all.

Geoffrey Manne


President & Founder, International Center for Law & Economics

5 responses to Paternalism and the iPod


    I think I read somewhere that the plaintiff here is not even claiming that he is suffering hearing loss.

    If the class wins a judgment, I’m going to take the $4.50 I get out of the lawsuit, log onto iTunes and download all the Pantera/DFA’79 I can afford….

    Michael Whiteman 3 February 2006 at 1:01 pm

    As a lover of heavy metal music I don’t plan on suing Apple or the bands themselves for creating or allowing me to listen to loud music, I simply take advantage of that powerful self-help tool that is built into every iPod, THE VOLUME CONTROL!
    Next thing we know people will be suing Apple because parents are allowing their kids to use their (the parents) credit cards to download porn onto their new video iPods. Take some responsibility for your own actions people rather than trying to put legitimate companies out of business.


    I’m with Bill. I don’t think mine plays loud enough either. But maybe that’s because my ears are shot from all those years of setting the volume too high on my Sony Walkman.


    I have had various iPods over the last four years. I’ve always felt that they don’t play loud enough (I guess I like jet engine volume). But because my dad has recently been fitted with a hearing aid, I now turn it down as you suggest.

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