Hearing study reveals new perspectives on tinnitus including help from an Apple Watch

That ringing in your ears driving you absolutely crazy? Maybe what Apple is developing for use in its Apple Watch might help in the future - Image by ConsumerAffairs

A leading hearing organization lauds the move

Are you one of those who are hounded by that annoying ringing in your ears?

Maybe it was playing your Led Zep a little too loud and for a little too long. Maybe it was a noisy workplace, excess ear wax, or a certain medication.

Now, thanks to an innovative study, Apple and the University of Michigan have unveiled preliminary findings on that very ringing in your ears – tinnitus – from their Apple Hearing Study. 

Understanding tinnitus has long been a quest of both scientists and the people it affects. And that’s a lot of folks, too. According to the study, 77.6% of participants reported experiencing tinnitus at some point in their lives, while 26.7% have symptoms at least once a week and nearly 15% experience tinnitus every day. The condition is more common among older adults and men, with those groups reporting more frequent rates of tinnitus.

As many imagined, the study identified noise trauma as one of the primary causes of tinnitus. Unfortunately, most of the tinnitus sufferers who “traumatized” their hearing with loud music or workplace noise can’t undo the situations they put themselves in, nor have they found effective strategies to manage their symptoms. 

And those people have tried everything under the moon – using white noise machines, listening to nature sounds, etc. However, these methods don't work for everyone, which was a factor in determing that there is a real need for further research and better solutions.

What’s done is done, but…

Apple understands it can’t undo things, but what it can do is help people head tinnitus off at the pass, by offering technology that can play a part in managing the condition. The Apple Hearing Study leverages data collected through the Apple Research app and Apple Watch, showcasing how wearable technology can contribute to large-scale health research.

For example, the Noise app on the Apple Watch helps users monitor their sound exposure, potentially preventing noise-induced tinnitus. Apple also offers Headphone Notifications that ping you when your volume may be loud enough to negatively affect hearing. 

The study – and Apple’s involvement – are square one. With what the researchers were able to find, Apple has made a commitment to continue exploring the factors contributing to tinnitus and how technology can aid in its management. In future rounds of research, the focus will be on zoning in on root causes and effective treatments. If that happens, it could potentially lead to a better quality of life for those affected by tinnitus.

The HLAA applauds the move

“Tinnitus is a serious problem that can be linked to hearing loss, a growing public health crisis affecting one in seven Americans,” Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) told ConsumerAffairs.

“Tinnitus is one of the most common issues we are contacted for at the Hearing Loss Association of America, and it’s the most common service-connected disability for our nation’s veterans. So, we’re always encouraged to see more research being conducted since that information could lead to better understanding and treatment of tinnitus.

“Just like we learned to wear seatbelts, helmets and sunscreen, we need to get important safety messages out about limiting the level and duration of noise exposure for people of all ages. Hearing should be tested regularly, protected in noisy environments and treated quickly if needed.” 

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