Hearing loss, which worsens with age, affects more than 360 million people worldwide; this is about 5 percent of the world’s population. Hearing loss not only affects immediate perception but can also contribute to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and even dementia.
Recent numbers from World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that roughly half of people aged 12-35 are at risk of hearing loss. That is due in no small part to the explosive growth of personal listening devices.
American tech giant Apple claims to be making it easier to recognize loud noises in the future by examining factors that impact hearing health. Indeed, the Apple Hearing Health Study is the first of its kind to collect data over time to understand how everyday sound exposure can impact hearing. The study will collect information to make sense of how exposure to sound can affect hearing over time.
Nelly Attar, 29, owner of Move Riyadh Studio, Saudi Arabia’s first dance studio, loved her music loud in her younger days. “I remember having a very bad ear infection one time and going to a friend’s birthday celebration. Once safely back home that night I started experiencing a ringing sound in my ears. Since then I developed tinnitus permanently, it’s been eight years now.”
Tinnitus is a sound in the head with no external source that may come from one or both ears, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady or pulsating.
Today, Attar tries to make healthy lifestyle choices for her ears. “I am glad to have the Noise app at the convenience of my wrist with my Apple Watch to help me measure and monitor not only the music volume but also the noise environment around me.”
The new Noise app on the Apple Watch alerts you when things are getting a little too loud and decibels rise to levels that can impact your hearing. It also uses built-in microphones to measure the noise levels in your environment anytime. This information will then be logged into your health app as either “OK” or “Loud” based on guidance from the WHO.
Dr. Lubaina Sharafally, a clinical audiologist at the American Hospital in Dubai, said: “It’s so encouraging to see how the Apple Watch Noise feature can assist one to identify noise and limit the effects of noise exposure, as noise can damage hearing in a silent manner and create irreversible loss leading to severe communication difficulties.”
She added: “People exposed to noise levels of over 85 decibels for long durations are at an increased risk for acoustic trauma. This trauma can occur in a work setting, aviation industry, oil and gas or construction where individuals are exposed to loud noise for long durations repetitively.”
In response to consumer concerns, Apple offers a volume limit setting on its iOS software. Users can go to Settings>Music>Volume>Limit and adjust the maximum volume they want. Alternatively, they could use iPhone Sound Check feature, which when turned on will not only give a better music-listening experience but also protect hearing.