Apple Hearing Study: one in four people are regularly exposed to too many loud noises
In September 2019, Apple teamed up with researchers at the University of Michigan to examine how our daily exposure to loud sounds can adversely impact the way we hear. A day ahead of what has been designated World Hearing Day on Wednesday, Apple is amplifying preliminary insights from this Apple Hearing Study, which is ongoing.
Among the key takeaways so far is that 25% of study participants experience a daily average environmental sound exposure--which can emanate from noisy traffic, machinery, public transportation and so on--that is higher than the recommended limit set by the World Health Organization, with whom Apple is sharing data.
WHO estimates that about 450 million people around the world have a hearing loss currently, and that more than 700 million globally will experience profound hearing loss by 2050. That often contributes to feelings of isolation, loneliness, depression, and dementia.
Participants in the voluntary study were required to download the Apple Research app onto their iPhones and give the company permission to collect health and sound exposure data from their phones and, if they wore them, Apple Watches. They also had to complete occasional short surveys about their medical history and headphone use.
Even at this stage, you can still participate by downloading the Research app.
Among other preliminary insights (culled from a sample of approximately 70,000 participants):
— Nearly half of participants now work, or have previously worked, in a loud workplace—and about 20% of all the hearing loss cases around the globe are directly related to workplace noise.
— Average weekly headphone exposure for one in 10 participants is higher than the WHO recommended limit.
— About 10% of Apple Hearing Study participants have been diagnosed with hearing loss by a professional. But 75% of these people do not take advantage of a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
— According to data collected using the study’s hearing tests, 20% of participants have hearing loss when compared to WHO standards, and 10% have hearing loss that is consistent with noise exposure.
— Nearly 50% of participants haven’t had their hearing tested by an audiologist or other hearing professional in at least 10 years.
— One in four participants experience ringing in their ears a few times a week or more.
“Unfortunately hearing loss, for whatever reason, isn’t a condition that has been taken very seriously in our country historically but it does have this huge public health burden with lots of impacts on folks,” says Rick Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Some of the tech in Apple’s own products can help provide users information about their own their exposure to noise. The Noise app on the Apple Watch, for example, can alert folks when environmental sounds exceed unsafe levels. People who wear AirPods can exploit a Live Listen feature that enables the iPhone to function as a directional microphone, letting folks, say, better hear a person across the table. And the Headphone Accommodations accessibility settings inside the iPhone can amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies for folks who wear select AirPods or Apple Beats-branded headphones.
Photos courtesy of Apple