Apple releases results from hearing health study

Brian Heater
·3 min read

Way back in 2019, Apple launched Research. The app was the latest effort by a company looking to take a more serious approach to user health, built (naturally) around data collected from the iPhone and Apple Watch. The app debuted with four studies: heart health, women’s health, movement and hearing.

Today, the company is issuing results from the latter, conducted alongside the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a day prior to World Hearing Day. Hearing loss is an issue the company has looked to tackle, due in no small part to its large -- and growing -- involvement in the headphone category.

Headphones have, of course, become a common source of long-term hearing loss as the technology has proliferated. The company has also built noise-level readings into its mobile operating systems, to offer notifications of loud environments. That info is also built into the health app, showing off both headphone levels and environmental sound levels -- the latter of which can be a subtler source of hearing loss.

According to the study of “thousands” of participants in the U.S., a quarter of those involved encounter more than the WHO’s recommended daily limit of environmental sound exposure. And 50% of those in the survey work or worked in a loud environment. The numbers remain reasonably high, even as many or most have transitioned to a work-from-home setting during the pandemic.

“Even during this pandemic, when many people are staying home, we’re still seeing 25% of our participants experiencing high environmental sound exposures,” University of Michigan Associate Profession Rick Neitzel says in a release tied to the news. “The results of this study can improve our understanding of potentially harmful exposures, and help identify ways that people can proactively protect their hearing.”

Ten percent of those surveyed, meanwhile, exceed the recommended limit for weekly headphone exposure, while a quarter reported ringing in their ears a few times a week or more.

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