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Apple Hearing Study Shares Early Findings on Tinnitus

Apple writes:

The Apple Hearing Study is sharing new insights on tinnitus in one of the largest surveys to date. Through the study, University of Michigan researchers reviewed a cohort of more than 160,000 participants who answered survey questions and completed app-based assessments to characterize their experience of tinnitus. This research aims to improve understanding of tinnitus characteristics and inform future research on potential treatments.

About 15% of the self-selected participants in the study suffer daily from tinnitus, the perception of sound that others do not hear. I’ve never experienced it as far as I know, and I had no idea it was so common or that it’s three times more likely for people aged 55 and up. The study’s findings about prevalence, causes, and management may be particularly interesting if you or someone you know experiences tinnitus.

The Apple Hearing Study studies sound exposure and its impact on hearing health. It has produced interactive US maps of noise exposure, findings about headphone listening levels, and more. It was launched in 2019 alongside the Apple Women’s Health Study and the Apple Heart and Movement Study.

Why has Apple launched no new studies since 2019? The reasons likely revolve around limited sensor data from the Apple Watch, regulatory hurdles surrounding medical research and devices, prioritization of the existing studies, and internal disagreements about overall direction. As reported in a Bloomberg piece from November 2023, Apple has ambitious ideas surrounding healthcare but faces technical, regulatory, and business obstacles in realizing them.

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Comments About Apple Hearing Study Shares Early Findings on Tinnitus

Notable Replies

  1. I’m one of the people who have tinnitus and participated in the study. In my case, it’s constant but high pitched tones (different in each ear) so it rarely interferes with hearing. So at this point I’m not doing anything about it. Interesting to see the results.

  2. I am not part of the study, but have had Tinnitus for over 30 years. I noticed symptoms after having the flu or a virus. The sound is centralized, and more noticable in a quiet room. Wearing headphones or a cap that covers my ears does make it more noticable. I’ve been to ENTs, had hearing checked, and a visit to a Neurologist over the years, no cause or treatment for it could be determined. I usually sleep with a fan for white noise which helps significantly. Not sure I’ll ever find complete relief.

  3. I have “enjoyed” tinnitus for probably 30 or more years. Fortunately, my brain tunes it out except when I think about it. It is fairly loud but usually is not a problem for me. Mine is a high frequency hiss, not a single tone. I would guess about 6 to 8 kHz but I’ve not measured it against a tone generator. Sure is a lot of phony stuff on The Internet about how to combat it but I’m sure doctors who treat sufferers are not hiding the real cure.

  4. Ray

    Mine is always in the background and I can hear it but have learned not to pay attention to it. When it first came on, it drove me crazy and I had difficulty sleeping. I have tried some of the noise generators that are supposed to help, but they just mask it a little. I am surprised that modern medicine has not come up with something to help, and I appreciate that Apple is exploring that area.

    For me I found that if I cut off all caffeine, sugar and bread, it goes away (at least it did the time I tried this). But even a little bit of these brings it back and I don’t think I could stay away from all of that for something I don’t really pay attention to.

    And I like my music “present”, but not loud. Maybe it was that one Led Zeppelin concert I went to as a teen. My ears rang for a day after. Or maybe the theater movie trailers and commercials are exacerbating it. I think the hardest thing about it for people is not knowing the variables that cause it.

  5. blm

    There is some progress. Here’s a recent (paywalled) New Scientist article about it. Nothing you can go down to the drug store and buy yet, but people are working on the problem and making some progress.

  6. That New Scientist article (behind a paywall?) is interesting because it talks about a loss of function of elements of the hearing system that respond to loud noises. This loss cannot be readily identified in normal hearing tests that measure frequency thresholds.
    Anyway, hopefully new understanding and treatments will come from the research…

  7. M C

    I’ve had it since 1988. Likely caused by migraine disease damaging the inner ear nerves (migraine is not a headache but a spectrum of neurological symptoms and a headache may or may not be one of them, it is inherited). It can be quite severe and tends to be worse in the evening before bed.
    There have been some interesting tinnitus (pronounced tin-it-tus not tin-i-tus) treatments that have come out. One places a device on the tongue. Another on the wrist.
    I had to retype the i in tin-i-tus 10 times to get it to be lower case. :arrow_left: Here too! How do we stop autocorrect on Mac OS from this problem?

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