University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Professor Deanna Meinke, a researcher of noise-induced hearing loss and prevention, applauded Apple this week for developing a watch app that aims to help people avoid damage to their hearing, according to an announcement on the UNC website.
According to a CNET article, the feature—which Apple debuted at WWDC 2019—is said to detect loud environments and warn the user that they may damage their hearing. The watch’s microphone measures decibel levels in places that tend to be loud like concerts, amusement parks, or parades, and alerts the user if sound exceeds 90 dB.

Meinke previously attended a meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO), where she’s been an invited speaker, with engineers from companies such as Apple and Bose as discussions unfolded about how to protect hearing when listening through smart devices.

“They’re definitely taking a step in the right direction,” Meinke said of Apple. She expects future updates to address a “missing link” by integrating sound-measurement capabilities into headphones and earbuds to promote safe-listening levels. She notes “it isn’t just about music listening, but all the sounds in our daily lives that can add up to an overexposure.”

Since 2007, Meinke, Professor Don Finan, and UNC students have built “Jolene” mannequins embedded with sensors in silicone ears that display decibel levels from personal listening devices. They take them to K-12 schools to help students find safe-listening zones on their own devices. Meinke and Finan also co-created this safe-listening exhibit featuring the mannequin at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

Meinke, who serves as an expert consultant to the WHO’s Make Listening Safe initiative and co-directs the Dangerous Decibels national intervention program rooted in K-12 classrooms, was recognized by National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) for outstanding contributions to the field of hearing loss prevention in 2018.

Other Apps to Protect Hearing

Professor Meinke shared these apps that also help monitor noise*:

*Calibration is critical for accurate measurements and the range of sound levels is limited by the microphones in each device.Source: UNC