Apple offers new insights regarding hearing health from the ongoing Hearing Study

Way back in November of 2019, Apple launched the Research app. Along with it, three separate health-related studies. One of those is the Hearing Study, which Apple is offering up some relevant information on today.

The company released a minor press release regarding an update to the ongoing Hearing Study today. The update is meant to let those interested in on some of the key insights the study has picked up on over the course of its availability, which includes thousands of participants. The goal is to better understand hearing health, while doing so with a more open approach and allowing those interested participate in medical research by using the devices they own and use every day.

In this case, the Hearing Study is being conducted along with the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The data collected through the study is then being shared with the World Health Organization’s initiative, Make Listening Safe.

Per the announcement:

Hearing loss can impact a person in many ways, and our goal is to drive increased focus on the importance of hearing health across decision makers and the general population,” said Ren Minghui, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization. “We encourage people to take the appropriate steps to protect their hearing and to seek care when needed.

The timing of the update makes sense, albeit a day early. March 3 is designated World Hearing Day, meant to bring attention to hearing loss and other related issues. By the year 2050, the W.H.O. estimates that over 700 million people will suffer from profound hearing loss.

The Apple Hearing Study allows users to participate and contribute to their long-term hearing health data from their Apple Watch and iPhone, allowing for study participation at a scale never seen before. The new insights generated leveraging this unprecedented data demonstrate that 25 percent of participants experience a daily average environmental sound exposure (which can include traffic, machinery, public transport, and so on) that is higher than the WHO recommended limit. Also, nearly 50 percent of participants now work, or have previously worked, in a loud workplace. As noise exposure has shown an impact on hearing, it’s important to be aware of surroundings. Checking noise levels with the Noise app on Apple Watch can be an effective way to be more aware of sound exposure.

The results are interesting, which you can find in the full press release. But, here are a few major takeaways:

  • Average weekly headphone exposure for one in 10 participants is higher than the W.H.O. recommends.
  • About 10% of those participating in the Hearing Study have been diagnosed with hearing loss by a professional.
  • Of those, 75 percent aren’t using an assistive support devices like hearing aides.
  • Data shows that about 20 percent participants have hearing loss compared to W.H.O. standards.
  • Noise exposure is a major contributing factor, with 10 percent of participants’ hearing loss due to this.
  • Nearly 50% of participants haven’t had their hearing tested by a professional

It’s been a little over a year since Apple launched the Hearing Study, and it’s already resulted in some major insights:

One year into the Apple Hearing Study, we’ve generated significant insights into everyday noise exposures and the impacts of those exposures on hearing among our participants. The national scale of this study is unprecedented. We look forward to sharing new scientific findings, as well as informing policy to improve and promote hearing health, as the study progresses,” said Rick Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “Even during this pandemic, when many people are staying home, we’re still seeing 25 percent of our participants experiencing high environmental sound exposures. The results of this study can improve our understanding of potentially harmful exposures, and help identify ways that people can proactively protect their hearing.

Here are some other major points from the update today:

  • Monitor and protect hearing health: With the Noise app, Apple Watch users can enable notifications that alert when environmental noise levels might affect their hearing health. The Health app on iPhone keeps track of a user’s history of exposure to sound levels, and informs whether headphones or environmental levels have exceeded those recommended by WHO standards.
  • Use Apple devices to hear more clearly: AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max can help hearing in loud places with Live Listen, which enables iPhone to function as a directional microphone. In addition, Transparency mode on AirPods Pro or AirPods Max can let outside sound in, so users can hear what’s going on around them.
  • Set up Headphone Accommodations to make sound more crisp and clear: Through a series of listening tests, iPhone enables users to customize headphone audio to their preferences. With iOS, they can upload personal audiograms and then tailor headphone audio output to reflect unique audiogram data. Mono Audio settings are also available to support those who may have hearing loss in only one ear.
  • Use the Made for iPhone hearing device program: Hearing aid and sound processor wearers can stream audio such as phone and FaceTime calls, music, Siri, and other content directly from iPhone to their hearing device. It is the most advanced and extensive smartphone-hearing device platform in the world, with nearly 200 hearing device models available from more than 40 manufacturers.
  • Access support for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community: Hearing accessibility on iOS includes several features to support people who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing, like Sound Recognition; FaceTime, including sign language detection in Group FaceTime; sensory alerts; and Type to Siri.

If you’re at all curious about the Hearing Study, you can check out the latest insights at Apple’s press release. And if you want to participate, simply open the Research app and follow the guides to do so.

Since launching, the Hearing Study has been updated to support AirPods Pro. However, it hasn’t all been good news. Back in December of last year, it was revealed that the Hearing Study revealed historical data from the Research app.