Big Data and the Apple Hearing Study

Author: Rick Neitzel, Associate Professor, Environmental Health Sciences and Global Public Health. Associate Director, Office of Global Public Health Associate Director, Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering Director, Industrial Hygiene Program Department of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Abstract: Although noise and music exposures are extensive and widespread, there is a paucity of objective, large-scale data available regarding personal music and noise exposure levels and patterns, as well as the health impacts of these exposures.  The University of Michigan School of Public Health has partnered with Apple Inc. to use advances in smart device and wearable technology to evaluate the levels of sound at which iPhone users listen to music and other media, as well as how long and how often they listen.  Our study will also evaluate hearing threshold levels among participants, and, among the subset of participants who wear Apple Watches, will measure environmental noise levels and collect heart rate information, as well.  The unique, crowdsourced big data resulting from this study will allow us to create national-level estimates of adult exposures to music and environmental sound.  The information collected will also help give us a clearer picture of the impacts of music and noise exposures on hearing and cardiovascular health in adults, and ultimately inform efforts to address and reduce the public health impacts of these exposures.


This figure shows reductions in environmental sound levels associated with COVID-19 government lockdowns in 2020 among participants in the Apple Hearing Study in four US states (California, New York, Texas, and Florida).