Apple conducts major hearing study as part of growing "democratisation" of research



© Apple

In a move that Apple claims will allow customers to contribute to medical discoveries, the phone and computer giant is to conduct three large-scale health studies, one of them into the impact of everyday sound exposure on hearing.

The resources of what is one of the world's biggest firms are already being used to support medical research through the Apple Heart Study, which employed the ResearchKit open source framework for the largest project of its kind, examining atrial fibrillation to provide validation for the irregular rhythm notification feature on the Apple Watch.

The new announcement involves an expansion of the commitment, encompassing joint research with several academic institutions to provide data to share with the World Health Organisation (WHO) , and looking towards a rather brave new world in which citizens provide key medical data. Apple's new free-to-download Research app (available later this year and only in the US) is the tool that will "democratise how medical research is conducted," says the firm.

The specific hearing research will "collect data over time in order to understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing", the data being presented to the WHO to support its Make Listening Safe initiative.

“We are excited about this unique opportunity to partner with Apple to determine how everyday activities affect our hearing,” said DuBois Bowman, dean of the University of Michigan 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.”

Dr. Shelly Chadha, technical officer of Prevention of Deafness and Hearing Loss at the World Health Organization declared: "The World Health Organization is pleased to note the announcement of the Apple Hearing Study which will contribute toward our Make Listening Safe initiative by improving our understanding of users’ listening behaviors."

The knowledge gained through this study will contribute to future public health action in this field,” added Dr. Chadha.

The two other Apple studies will investigate Women’s Health, In partnership with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Heart and Movement, partnering with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association.

Source: Apple