How to Get IOS 13 to Tell You If Your Headphones Are Too Loud

With the latest iOS update , the Apple Health app can now tell you the noise levels you’ve been exposed to, both from your environment and from your headphones. Here’s how to set it up and what to do with that information when you have it.

Hearing is now a separate category of health, so just open the Health app and tap Browse and then Hearing to view hearing-related features.

Monitor headphone audio levels

Tap Headphone Sound Levels to see if you’re clogging your eardrums with unnecessarily loud music.

This feature works best with Airpods, but you can ask your phone to rate the volume for other headphones, including wired ones. To do this, turn on Enable Other Headphones in Settings> Privacy> Health> Headphone Sound Levels.

When you view your headphone sound levels from the Health app, you can see hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual reports on how much noise your listening habits are exposed to. It is encoded according to an “OK” volume level compared to a “Loud” level. Apple uses sound exposure limits based on World Health Organization guidelines that combine loudness (measured in A-weighted decibels) with duration of sound exposure (e.g. 80 dB is sufficient for 4 hours a week, but 120 dB is okay only for a few seconds).

Watch out for the noise around you

Another cool feature – ambient noise levels – requires Apple Watch Series 4 or newer. To use this, you need to make sure your phone and watch are up to date; then you’ll find a listening app on your watch called Noise, represented by a yellow stylized ear icon.

The Noise app measures the volume level from your watch’s microphone, and Apple claims that it doesn’t record or save sound. You can see the ambient noise level in three ways:

  • From the Noise Watch app itself, which can see your current noise exposure in real time.
  • Due to the noise complication on the dial, which also displays the current levels in real time.
  • In the summary in the Health app

The watch will stop measuring noise while you are using headphones or speakers, or when the watch is in water lock mode. You can also turn on alerts when your ambient noise reaches a certain level.

I tried this feature but couldn’t get it to tell me my noise exposure was too strong – I think that’s a good sign. Sitting in a quiet room, the noise level was around 30 dB. When I spoke or typed loudly, the levels went up to 60 dB. I was standing on a busy road and when the cars passed, I got the mid-70s values. If I was wearing the watch while mowing the lawn or at a noisy party, I would probably see much higher numbers.

Your noise exposure matters to your long-term hearing health, so these features can help you understand when you might be exposed to noise that is louder than would be good for you.


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