Apple Computer’s popular iPod music player was facing a new legal threat after an aggrieved customer filed a class action complaint claiming the comany did not adequately warn customers about the potential for damaging hearing loss from playing its popular music player at full volume.

A complaint filed with a California court this week alleged that Apple’s music players were “inherently defective in design” and “not adorned with adequate warnings regarding the likelihood of hearing loss”.

IPods sold in Europe contain software that limits their noise output to 100 decibels, but the complaint alleged that iPods sold in the US can produce sound levels of up to 115 decibels – louder than a helicopter or a jackhammer.

“Millions of consumers have had their hearing put at risk by Apple’s conduct,” the complaint said.

Apple could not be reached yesterday morning for comment.

The lawsuit comes at a sensitive time for the computer maker, which has come under pressure to introduce new blockbuster products to sustain its meteoric sales growth. IPods, which account for a bulk of Apple’s revenues, propelled the company to record profits last year.

The iPod has faced legal threats before. A lawsuit filed last October by an angy iPod nano owner sought damages because the diminutive music player’s screen was alleged to have scratched too easily. Last June, the company settled a class action suit brought by customers who said older iPods’ batteries did not perform as advertised.

In addition to unspecified damages, this week’s complaint sought to force Apple to upgrade its iPod software to limit the amount of sound the music players can produce.

The iPod user manual already warns customers about the potential for permanent hearing loss if the player’s earphones or headphones are used a high volume. But the complaint alleged that Apple did not advise users about what constituted a high volume or a safe level of noise.

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