The Apple Watch has always been a product that takes care of its user’s health. And in the upcoming watchOS 6 update, Apple Watch will look after your hearing health, too. Back at WWDC ’19, Apple announced a new health-focused watchOS platform called Noise. As you might guess, the feature is meant to protect your ears from dangerous noise levels. Here’s how you can access the Noise app features.
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What is the Noise app?
The new Noise app, essentially, is an app that detects loud noises in your environment — and sends you a notification warning you that they could cause hearing loss.
Noise set the built-in microphone to measure the decibel level of your environment and the noises in it. When it reaches a certain threshold, it’ll automatically send you a notification.
You can also just open up the Noise app if you think you’re in a loud environment to see the ambient decibel level.
Why do I need a decibel-measuring app?
Repeated exposure to sounds over a certain decibel level can negatively impact your hearing. In other words, it can lead to hearing loss — even if you don’t realize it.
Thus far, you may not even have thought much about loud noises contributing to hearing loss. And the big problem with hearing loss is that it typically happen gradually. In other words, you may not notice that you’re losing your hearing until it’s too late to do anything about it.
But thanks to the Noise app, you can start taking preventative measures to save your hearing over the long term.
Even if you aren’t bothered by loud noises, exposing yourself to loud environments can exacerbate hearing loss. When Noise alerts you to a too-loud situation, you can take steps to remove yourself, pop in earplugs, or otherwise give your ears a break.
What is the acceptable noise level?
By default, the Noise app will send you a warning notification if the average noise level in your environment reaches or exceeds 90 decibels for three minutes. That’s about the sound of a motorcycle driving by or a lawnmower.
You’ll feel a gentle tap on your wrist and an alert will pop up on your Apple Watch. Just tap on it to see the ambient decibel level and more information about hearing loss.
For content, a soft whisper is around the 40 decibel range, while a jet taking off is about 120 decibels. You can find more information about decibels and hearing loss from this OSHA webpage.
Where is the Noise app on your Apple Watch?
If you’re running iOS 13 and watchOS 6 and you’re looking for the Noise app to no avail, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
For one, the Noise app is only available on the Apple Watch Series 4. Older Apple Watch models will not be able to use it as an app directly from the Apple Watch.
Also note that there’s no actual Noise app installed on your Apple Watch on the older Apple Watch units. You can explore other apps for similar feature if you have an older Apple Watch. One such app is DecibelX.
On older Watch unit, you can however enable monitoring Headphone Audio levels as shown below.
- Open the Watch App on your iPhone
- Tap on Privacy
- Tap on Headphone Audio Measurements
- Enable Measure Levels here on the screen
- Enable Include Other Devices
This feature works with AirPods and other MFi certified headphones.
How does Noise protect my privacy?
If you’re a privacy-conscious consumer, the very thought of an app listening in on your day-to-day activities probably immediately set off some red flags.
Don’t worry, Apple has already considered this. The Noise app only uses the microphone to analyze the decibel level of your environment.
It does not record or save any audio. Because of that, you don’t have to worry about audio ever leaving your device or ending up on a server somewhere, either.
Using the Noise app
Now that you know why Apple has included Noise in watchOS, and why you may want to use it, here’s how to actually go about doing so on your Apple Watch.
Check the Noise level in real-time
While the Noise app will alert you automatically, you can also check the current noise level using the Noise app if you have the Apple Watch Series 4 and higher.
- Press the Digital Crown and go to the Home screen.
- Find and tap on the Noise app.
- From here, you’ll see the noise level around you display changes in real-time. It’ll rate the noise level as OK or Loud — and you can tap Learn More for additional information.
You can also open the Noise app using Siri or add it to your Apple Watch dock or use the new watchOS 6 Infograph modular and add it to it.
Configure Noise notifications on Apple Watch Series 4 and higher
As we mentioned, the Noise app will send you notifications by default after you install watchOS 6. But you can configure these Notifications.
- Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
- In the My Watch tab, find the app called Noise.
- Tap on Noise.
- From here, you should see an option to enable or disable Environmental Sound Measurements.
It’s worth noting that you can also disable Environmental Sound Measurements and set a manual threshold.
Just tap on the Noise Threshold field underneath Noise Notifications. There will be a list of choices, from Off to 100 decibels.
Of course, we recommend sticking with Apple’s recommended noise notification level of 80 decibels. OSHA provides recommendations around the appropriate decibel levels.
Checking out data analysis in Health
If you’re curious about the noise level in real time, here’s a new Noise section in the iOS Health app.
This section lists all of the recorded decibel levels. That could allow you to get a better understanding of when and where you are exposed to dangerous sound levels.
- Open Health App on your iPhone
- Tap on Browse > Hearing
- You can check Headphone Audio levels as well as Environmental Sound Levels
You’ll be able to see some additional information that isn’t currently available in the Noise app. That includes when Noise sent you notifications and historical trends about noise level.
Other ways to protect against hearing loss
Hearing loss can’t just occur because of noisy environments. Sometimes, you can do damage to yourself by listening to music too loud in your headphones.
Luckily, Apple has a couple of solutions.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the music “loudness wars,” you’ve probably noticed that songs can fluctuate wildly in volume.
To even out the volume of all the music you listen to in Apple Music on iOS, Apple has included the Sound Check feature. You can enable it in Settings —> Music —> Playback and Sound Check.
We hope that you found the article useful. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.
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