Free update available at Apple's online store.

In a response to several lawsuits and a rash of publicity over how iPods contribute to hearing loss, Apple Computer has released a software update for all iPod Nano and 5th-generation devices that allow users to set their own maximum volume limit.

Bowing to parental pressure, the software also allows parents to set the volume level for their children's devices, and lock the settings with a password so it cannot be changed. The volume-limit feature also works with any headphone or other iPod accessory, including the iPod Radio Remote.

The software update is available as a free download, but users will have to visit the Apple store to acquire it. Apple also has launched a "safe listening" Web site at www.apple.com/sound.