Apple Hearing Study Reveals New Insights on Tinnitus

Apple today shared an update on the Apple Hearing Study that reveals new insights into the hearing condition tinnitus.

apple hearing study
In one of the largest surveys on tinnitus to date, researchers from the University of Michigan examined data from over 160,000 participants using Apple devices. Tinnitus, defined as the perception of sound without an external source, can manifest as ringing, buzzing, or other sounds and can impact quality of life by disrupting sleep, concentration, and clear hearing.

The study found that 77.6% of participants had experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives. The prevalence of daily tinnitus increased with age, with those aged 55 and older being three times more likely to experience it daily compared to younger participants aged 18-34. Male participants reported a slightly higher incidence of daily tinnitus, at 2.7% more than females, but a higher percentage of males stated they had never experienced tinnitus.

Participants reported employing various methods to manage their tinnitus. The most common strategies included using noise machines, listening to nature sounds, and practicing meditation. Regarding the causes of tinnitus, the study highlighted that noise trauma or exposure to excessively high noise levels was the primary reported cause, cited by 20.3% of participants. Apple highlighted several ways in which its devices can help support hearing health:

  • Noise app: The Noise app on the Apple Watch can notify users when environmental noise levels may impact their hearing health. The iPhone's Health app tracks a user's history of sound level exposure and indicates if headphone audio or environmental noise levels exceed World Health Organization standards.
  • Environmental sound levels: Users can view environmental sound levels over the course of a week on the ‌iPhone‌ and check noise levels in decibels on the Apple Watch, ensuring their exposure remains within safe limits.
  • Active Noise Cancellation and Loud Sound Reduction mode: Active Noise Cancellation on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max uses built-in microphones to detect and counter external sounds with anti-noise, effectively canceling them before they reach the user's ears. For those who still wish to hear surrounding sounds, the Loud Sound Reduction mode on ‌AirPods Pro‌ (2nd generation) reduces loud noises while maintaining sound quality.
  • Reduce loud audio: To set a headphone volume limit, users can navigate to Settings, tap "Sounds & Haptics" (on ‌iPhone‌ 7 and later) or "Sounds" (for earlier models), then tap "Headphone Safety" to enable "Reduce Loud Audio" and adjust the slider to the desired decibel level.

The Apple Hearing Study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Michigan, seeks to advance understanding of sound exposure and its impact on hearing health. The study has already accumulated approximately 400 million hours of calculated environmental sound levels, supplemented by lifestyle surveys, to analyze how sound exposure affects hearing, stress, and related health aspects. The data collected is also being shared with the World Health Organization as part of its Make Listening Safe initiative. See Apple's full press release for more information.

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Top Rated Comments

star-affinity Avatar
4 weeks ago
Tinnitus sucks!

Or can suck depending on severity. If you have a mild sound that doesn't bother you during the day I think one can learn to manage to live with it, but if it's moderate to severe it can truly affect the quality of life negatively.

Prevention is of course best, but ultimately we need to find a cure for those situations when damage happens!

Same goes for curing hyperacusis (makes some ”normal” sounds louder) and hearing-loss. Horrible conditions I don't wish upon anyone. It is surreal having gone from no hearing issues at all where your hearing is ”just there” as one of your senses and not something you think much about, to then experience a constant high-pitch cicada like tinnitus, hyperacusis and hearing difference due to loosing some high-frequency hair cells.

Some of the amazing biology in the human inner ear unfortunately doesn't regenerate (hair cells and synapses).

So be careful and don't take your hearing for granted!
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
achtung! Avatar
4 weeks ago
I want to send some hugs and love to all people struggling with tinnitus. It sucks, stay strong.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
victorvictoria Avatar
4 weeks ago
Yep, I'm old. I have tinnitus, my wife has tinnitus, and almost everyone our age does too, either sometimes or constantly. Since medical science has nothing for us, we use coping strategies instead. But you can bet there are billions of dollars at stake for the company that comes up with a cure.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hodar1 Avatar
4 weeks ago
I have tinnitus, and I am partially to blame for my choices I made (rebuilding engines, shooting, loud music); but with age, comes many issues. Genetically, my parents have hearing issues. As I have zero musical talent, I used to truly enjoy listening to music; often at unsafe volumes. My tinnitus used to happen intermittently, now it's a constant high pitched sound.

My hearing MD explained it as, those tiny hairs used to sense sound are dead and gone; however, the nerves that connected to them are still healthy. They are straining to hear something that is no longer there. If you have ever put your hear to a glass, to try to listen to sound on the other side of a wall, odds are you are hearing what I hear - a high pitched whine. Those nerves are firing, as they are straining to hear sounds without their assigned "hair" present; so they feedback on each other. A good set of hearing aides will come with a tinnitus setting; which mimic's some of the sound you can't hear; so your brain detects "something", and those nerves settle down. Been wearing my hearing aides for 3 years (I just lost the high frequency, above about 8kHz), and the apparent tinnitus has greatly diminished.

The bad part about missing the high frequency, is the first sounds of a word, (cake, bake, take, make, rake, etc.) is often a high frequency transcient, and missing this means you often don't understand what is being said. Hearing Aides help - but avoiding this if you can; is highly recommended. Generics, on the other hand ..... there is no avoiding that.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mal Avatar
4 weeks ago

So apple is using their customers as guinea pigs without their consent?
No, why would you think that? You have to enroll in these types of studies.

I have tinnitus and didn't know about this study, but mine is pretty much constant crickets type. Would be lovely if someone could find a cure, but then again, despite how bothersome it can be, it's one of my least important medical issues right now!
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jephrey Avatar
4 weeks ago
Hope this will lead to a solution. My dad's tinnitus has turned into hearing loss (74yo) and mine is a nuisance though it hasn't affected concentration or sleeping. I've got ~11KHz tone (I used a tone app to try and mimic what I hear) but there are other frequencies and not necessarily the same in both ears.

I need to put more effort in, but i tried a white noise generator and removed anything at 11KHz, in hopes that I could listen to it, then when I turned it off, my brain would be tricked into the white noise AND the 11KHz tone going away.

While there's a bunch of seemingly quack stuff out there, there's really no tried and true way to eliminate tinnitus... Not giving up loud music though!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)