Apple has been hit with a new lawsuit alleging that a loud Amber Alert played through a set of AirPods Pro caused a child to lose his hearing in one ear.
The suit, reported by law360 and filed in California federal court Monday, goes after Apple and its AirPods manufacturer for “defective” design, because the earbuds don’t automatically lower the volume of alerts. It also complains that Apple does not warn users about the danger of hearing loss when using the headphones.
The child, a 12-year-old Texas resident referred to in the lawsuit only as BG, is alleged to have suffered serious damage when an Amber Alert came through the AirPods Pro back in 2020. He had been watching a movie on Netflix and listening to the audio through the headphones. The alert “ripped open” his eardrum, the suit claims, and damaged his cochlea. He has since complained of vertigo, tinnitus, and nausea, and has to wear a hearing aid.
Amber Alerts are notifications issued in response to child abductions. (The name stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.”) Some AirPods owners have complained that these are too noisy, and that they turn the volume up regardless of the levels users have set for their current activity.
This issue has led some users to turn off the alerts, which can be done by going to Settings > Notifications and tapping the relevant toggle at the bottom. This rather defeats the purpose of the alerts, of course, but may be better than the alternative.
The suit is seeking damages from Apple in an amount which “would punish Defendants for their conduct and… deter other technology companies from engaging in such misconduct in the future.”