Apple Announces New Tinnitus Research, Continues Dive Into Hearing Health

Apple Announces New Tinnitus Research, Continues Dive Into Hearing Health

Apple on Tuesday announced preliminary insights on tinnitus from its ongoing hearing health study, adding evidence to the fact that tinnitus is a widespread and sometimes disruptive condition stemming from an often-persistent persistent noise or “ringing” that only the person experiencing it can hear. 

The new report found that about 15% of people surveyed experience tinnitus daily. Ten percent say that their tinnitus has “moderately or entirely interfered with their ability to hear clearly.” Most participants (almost 78%) have experienced it in their life, and older adults were more likely to report experiencing it. 

Read more: Apple’s WWDC Invite Is Out. The Wait for iOS 18 and AI Is Almost Over 

Apple’s findings included details on what people say their tinnitus sounds like — whether it’s a “pure tone,” if it whistles like a tea kettle or if it’s more like white noise.

Findings were based on a survey of more than 160,000 participants and was conducted by University of Michigan researchers. They’re part of ongoing research into hearing health Apple launched in 2019 with the University of Michigan and the World Health Organization. It works through the Research App, where Apple users can enroll and share data and information, should they choose. 

Apple’s findings on tinnitus weren’t necessarily new. For example, it found older adults were much more likely to report tinnitus, which is in line with what we know about the relationship between aging, hearing loss and tinnitus. (Tinnitus is often the first sign of hearing loss, as tinnitus is most commonly caused by noise-induced damage to the cells in the cochlea.) 

But Apple’s continued research into hearing and tinnitus reflects a growing demand for hearing-health solutions for more and more people — many of them young and experiencing tinnitus or hearing loss from noise exposure through headphone, earbud use and other technology. (Yes, that includes Apple’s AirPods too.)

“The trends that we’re learning through the Apple Hearing Study about people’s experience with tinnitus can help us better understand the groups most at risk, which can in turn help guide efforts to reduce the impacts associated with it,” Rick Neitzel, University of Michigan School of Public Health’s professor of environmental health sciences, said in Apple’s press release

The study, Neitzel continued, “gives us an opportunity that was not possible before to improve our understanding of tinnitus across demographics, aiding current scientific knowledge that can ultimately improve management of tinnitus.”

Tinnitus varies in severity, and what’s barely noticeable for some can be debilitating for others. And because tinnitus is a completely subjective experience (the sound is coming from your head/ears), finding a suitable treatment may be difficult for those who are particularly troubled by it. Tinnitus management may include stress management, meditation, tinnitus retraining therapy and even using a hearing aid

Apple has other long-term health studies that are ongoing, including one on reproductive health (the Apple Women’s Health Study) and cardiovascular health (Apple Heart Study). Both studies track trends from information Apple users need to choose to actively share with the company through the Research app, They also reflect areas of health in which Apple has developed technology for its Watch, including temperature sensing in its Apple Watch, which can be used to give retrospective ovulation insights and menstrual cycle deviation information, and sensors that can detect irregular heart rhythms. For its part on hearing health, Apple offers Headphone Notifications for when your volume may be loud enough to affect hearing (noise-induced hearing loss typically occurs after long-term exposure) and a Noise app for Apple Watch. 

Ahead of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on June 10, rumors have swirled around what health advancements Apple may soon take for its AirPods.  

Read more: Beyond Hearing Loss, Noise Is an Unspoken Health Threat 

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