Parents sue Apple after Amber Alert "tore apart" son's eardrums

Originally published at: Parents sue Apple after Amber Alert "tore apart" son's eardrums | Boing Boing


Next stop hearing aids, protect your ears folks.



I hope their lawsuit is successful.

The plaintiffs make a good case that Amber Alerts shouldn’t start playing at an ear-blasting, nerve-jarring volume.

With all the information available on damaging noise levels in workplaces and outdoors, I’ve never understood why this tends to be ignored in devices and venues geared towards entertainment. Just noticing how badly volume levels are regulated through a TV makes me avoid headphones like the plague. There’s no way to catch something like that in advance, and once the damage is done it cannot be reversed.


Is this a problem with android phones, too…?


The fact that these alerts play at full, ear-splitting volume on the iPhone itself as led me to disable Amber alerts and, due to Silver alerts, emergency alerts. The value of these alerts is cancelled out by the frequent, very irritating sound alerts.


These risks are obviously known by manufacturers. My phone has 16 volume levels and forces me to click through a safety disclaimer if I try to turn it above 10 when I’m using a headset or Bluetooth. You would think that the “It Just Works” company would have accounted for this. Of course, it’s also the “Rechargeable Mouse You Can’t Use While Charging” company, so.


Probably. The sound subsystem used by *nix OSs in general (esd on most linuxes, and I’m sure coreaudio on macs is derviced from it) can get really wonky when you try to play multiple samples. Every modern device I’ve had does stupid things in those situations, including sometimes playing things unbearably loud.

Here’s something similar for Pixel phones from last year, almost certainly because they all use the same old-ass sound subsystem:

If this forces manufacturers to physically restrict the signal levels that can be output on all bluetooth/earphone devices, it would be welcome and about frickin’ time.


I’m not sure how the plaintiffs can prove that the AirPods were set to a “low level”. And you know the defendants are going to — however lamely — counter with “the young man surely must have known how to disable Amber Alerts before using his AirPods”. This is going to get ugly.


Ugh. Welp, I should warn the kid, who likes to listen to music on her phone at times…


The whole point of the loud siren is to get your attention if you’re not right next to your phone. If you’re wearing headphones (and the phone definitely knows your wearing headphones) then why not come on with something a bit less jarring. I’d assume it would be sufficient to stop the music/video that’s playing and chime in with a polite, “excuse me, there is an amber alert” (preferably using an upper class British accent).


I think it’s one of these situations:

Everyone’s using this “good enough” sound subsystem and sure it was fine when Linux was going to be “on the desktop any day now”, but now there’s a unix sound daemon in every smartphone and really, no one is doing a good job of considering the hearing damage bugs or bad design are causing. Definitely a good plan to be vigilant with the little ones!


I had never heard of an Amber Alert before. Had to look it up. If it must interrupt whatever someone is listening to, why would it ever have to be at a higher volume? That’s just wrong.


Given what I know about my better half’s work… that cartoon is really fucking accurate…

me, replying from a linux desktop :laughing:


She’s not a little as she once was… going into her second year of college! :grin:


/respect! :smiley:


TBF, it’s the better half that maintains this situation… though the kid has gotten pretty proficient at maintaining her own set up (being a gen Z digital native, growing up in a house with primarily linux machines).


Kind of. By default these alerts are set to ring and they will do so at loud volumes, you have to go into the settings and set it to vibrate only or disable the alerts. Presidential alerts and disaster alerts i think cannot be turned off but i think you can still make it to where they vibrate only. I presume apple devices might be set up in a similar way?


Yep. I have not had it happen when I had ear buds in, which i use in my workshop as hearing protection, ironically enough, but I have had it happen with the phone sitting beside me and practically jumped out of my skin.


I usually have my phone on silent. I either have it close to me and hear the buzz, or I don’t and will get you later. But I have had it on when an amber alert when off and I was like JESUS FUCKING CHRIST - WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??

I can’t imagine how bad that would be in ear pods. Shouldn’t there be a max level that can’t “blow out your eardrums” in those things???

Is there away to turn off amber alerts? This should be a default “off” position. Or like the OP said, make the alert start quiet and ramp up. Like my phone alarm does.

If I used my phone via hear phones with any sort of regularity, I would be terrified of this. My eyes already suck, I try to take care of my ears.


Demi Lovato Pizza GIF


My biggest annoyance beyond the volume level is that nearly all the amber alerts i got were for areas and cities nowhere near me. Usually places like 8hrs away from me