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Apple has been conducting research studies in collaboration with the University of Michigan to measure the impacts of noise exposure on hearing health. This initiative began in 2019, with the company announcing three new health research studies based on data collected from the iPhone and Apple Watch. Now, on International Noise Awareness Day on April 26, the company has shared updates on its Hearing Study, revealing some alarming insights.
Since watchOS 6, Apple Watch users have access to the Noise app, which measures the level of noise in the user’s environment to warn of potential ear damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that people should not be exposed to an average annual noise level above 70 decibels (dBA). Using this data, Apple and the University of Michigan have been conducting a study to determine the impacts of noise exposure on hearing health.
In 2021, Apple shared the first insights from this study, which showed that 25% of participants experienced exposure to sound levels louder than the recommended limit at some point. This often occurred during common situations such as being in traffic, working with machinery, and riding public transportation. The most recent data reveal that 1 in 3 adults in the US, around 77 million people, are exposed to excessive noise levels. The states with the highest populations have the largest number of those affected by high-decibel noise, including California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
The study also found that the highest percentage of participants exposed to noise levels often above 70 dBA reside in Puerto Rico (44%) and the lowest percentage reside in Washington DC (20%). Apple and the University of Michigan suggest some measures people can take to protect themselves from loud noises, including wearing hearing protection devices such as earplugs in noisy environments, buying quiet appliances, and taking regular breaks from noisy areas when possible.
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If you own an Apple Watch, be sure to check out the Noise app for a better idea of the sound noise levels in your environment. You can also enable notifications for when you’re exposed to above-recommended levels for extended periods of time. It’s worth noting that the Apple Hearing Study is available in the United States through the Apple Research app for iPhone.
Apple’s collaboration with the University of Michigan highlights the importance of monitoring noise exposure levels for hearing health. The company’s efforts to use its technology to promote better health are commendable, and it will be interesting to see how its research progresses in the future. As always, it’s crucial to take care of our hearing, and this study sheds light on the potential dangers of everyday noise exposure.