From the Apple Website:
Apple® announced on 29 March 2006 a software update for the iPod® nano and fifth generation iPod, allowing customers to easily set their own personal maximum volume limit. The software update also gives parents the ability to set a maximum volume limit on their child’s iPod and lock it with a combination code.
The new software update 1.1.1 is available immediately as a free download for the iPod nano and the fifth generation iPod from www.apple.com/ipod/download. The new Volume Limit feature works with any headphone or accessory plugged into the iPod headphone jack as well as the iPod Radio Remote.
I’ve heard of people suing Apple (as well as Sony during its Walkman® heydays) for their devices causing hearing loss. While this may be obvious, some people actually can’t figure out that prolonged exposure to high volumes can cause damage. It’s as obvious as sensory perception (aka, your brain is already telling you it’s too loud, duh…) And some people could actually get away with these suits enough to force settlements.
This is obviously a precautionary update from Apple– to prevent people from actually making money from their stupidity.
At least this measure is available now, unlike the Walkman® days…