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Noise Pollution

When I was about 14 years old, I started going to concerts--lots of them. These weren't normal concerts. For reasons that now boggle my mind, I loved heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest, AC/DC and Iron Maiden. During these concerts, I would try to get as close to the stage as possible. Because I only weighed 130 pounds at the time, I would inevitably get pushed to the side of the stage. Although I could see the band well from this vantage point, the drawback was that I would have to stand directly in front of a towering wall of Marshall amps. By the end of the concert, a shrill ringing in my ears silenced the outside world.

Around the same time I began going to concerts, Sony invented the first Walkman. I would listen to my cassettes for hours on end with the volume cranked to 10.

Not surprisingly, I now have trouble hearing people in places where there's a lot of background noise, such as restaurants and parties. So who is to blame for my hearing loss? Was it my parents' fault for letting me go to the concerts? Was it the bands' fault for playing so loudly? Or was it Sony's fault?

Today, many people, especially plaintiffs' attorneys, would like to blame the latter.

According to a recent study, the iPod's white, ear-bud headphones might be contributing to an increase in hearing problems among teenagers and young adults. Plaintiffs' attorneys quickly seized upon that information and filed a class action complaint against Apple Feb. 2.

Apparently, the in-the-ear style iPod headphone doesn't block out as much background noise as over-the-ear style headphones. This encourages users to increase the volume on their iPods to drown out unwanted noise. People also are listening to their iPods for much longer than they listened to Walkmans because Apple units can hold thousands of songs and the batteries can last up to 20 hours.

But why is it Apple's fault that people chose to crank up their music? It isn't. Apple--much like fast-food companies and gun manufacturers--shouldn't have to pay for its customers' mistakes.

Throughout life we make choices--some good, others bad. I made some bad choices. I chose to stand by a wall of amps at the concerts, and I chose to listen to my Walkman at ear-piercing levels. I am now paying the price for these mistakes. But these aren't mistakes that my parents, Sony or Judas Priest should be paying for.

Staff Writer

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