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Apple offers a way to limit the volume on iPods

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- 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 yesterday 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 impose a maximum volume on their child's iPod and lock it with a code.

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

''As the leading provider of digital music players, Apple continuously brings iPod customers innovative and easy-to-use solutions," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president for iPod marketing. ''With the increased attention in this area, we want to offer customers an easy-to-use option to set their own personal volume limit."

Whether or not Apple is responding to legal challenges or specific consumer requests, tech industry analyst Michael Gartenberg of JupiterResearch said the issue clearly is a concern, and ''Apple is acting in a responsible way to address it."

Earlier this year, a Louisiana man filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the iPod can cause hearing loss in people who use it.

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 the complaint filed in US District Court in San Jose, Calif.

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

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