U-M Researcher Partners with Apple to Study How Noise Exposure Impacts Hearing

A University of Michigan researcher in Ann Arbor is teaming up with Apple to learn how noise exposure impacts hearing.
woman presenting on noise exposure and hearing
The Apple Hearing Study will collect information to make sense of how exposure to sound over time can affect hearing. // Photo courtesy of Apple

A University of Michigan researcher in Ann Arbor is teaming up with Apple to learn how noise exposure impacts hearing.

The study will measure users’ level of sound exposure. Analysis of the data over time will help researchers understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing.

“We are excited about this unique opportunity to partner with Apple to determine how everyday activities affect our hearing,” says F. DuBois Bowman, dean of the U-M School of Public Health. “The information gleaned from this partnership will be critical for us to address the public health impact of various noise exposures on hearing loss in the United States.”

Rick Neitzel, an associate professor of environmental health sciences and global public health at the U-M School of Public Health, will lead the work.

“This unique dataset will allow us to create something the United States has never had —national-level estimates of exposures to music and environmental sound,” says Neitzel. “Collectively, this information will help give us a clearer picture of hearing health in America and will increase our knowledge about the impacts of our daily exposures to music and noise.

“We’ve never had a good tool to measure these exposures. It’s largely been guesswork, so to take that guesswork out of the equation is a huge step forward.”

How sound exposure impacts hearing health has not been well understood because researchers lacked the tools to measure daily sound exposure over time. Researchers hope to use the capabilities and ubiquity of Apple products to conduct this large-scale study.

“Noise exposure is an emerging challenge that carries serious health implications for people worldwide,” says Rebecca Cunningham, interim vice president for research at U-M. “The University of Michigan certainly cannot address this public health threat alone, which is why our partnership with Apple is so critical.

“These types of industry partnerships play a vital role in the overall health of our research enterprise, and by working together, researchers and industry leaders can help solve important issues facing our society.”

The study data will be shared with the World Health Organization.

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