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iPods with volume control

London, Dec. 23: Future versions of the iPod could turn down the volume if listeners play their music at full blast for too long.

Fears that fans will deafen themselves with a highest volume setting equal to a chainsaw have led Apple to develop an automatic­volume control.

It is the first time that the company has explicitly expressed fears over the risk the device poses to hearing. Experts believe that millions of young people are risking irreversible hearing damage because of the craze for MP3 players.

The iPod, like other digital music players, can store enough music to play for several days and has batteries that can last for more than 12 hours at a time. As a result, its owners can keep their earphones on all day, risking cumulative damage to their hearing.

A new patent reveals that the next iPods and iPhones could automatically calculate how long a person has been listening, and at what volume, before gradually reducing the sound level. It states: “Since the damaging effects on users’ hearing is both gradual and cumulative, even those users who are concerned about hearing loss may not behave in a manner that would limit or minimise such damaging effects.”

Currently, iPods can reach volumes of more than 100 decibels. At that volume, experts claim, there is a risk of hearing damage after just 15 minutes.

The device will also calculate the amount of “quiet time” between when the iPod is turned off and when it is restarted, allowing the volume to be increased again to a safe level.

However, it is unclear whether iPod owners will be able to switch off this automatic volume control.

The move by Apple to introduce hearing protection to iPods comes after heavy criticism by hearing charities who have expressed concerns about the risk posed by MP3 players.

A recent report by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf estimated that more than four million young people in Britain are at risk of hearing damage from listening to loud music, and called on MP3 manufacturers to introduce warnings and volume limits. It found that nearly 20 per cent of teenagers were listening to music for more than 21 hours a week.

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