How to use the Health app on your iPhone to protect your Hearing

iphone-airpods

Today we are publishing a contribution from Fabio Bracht, a technology enthusiast and aspiring drummer, that wanted to inform our readers how to protect their hearing while using their iPhones. As drummers, we can be very diligent about ear protection and volume when we are behind the kit, but we could still be destroying our hearing through our every-day listening habits.

Please note: this article is NOT a substitution for medical advice. Hearing Health technology is very useful to help us observe and make us more aware of the impact of our everyday listening. However, it should not be used as a basis for how you should approach your long-term hearing health. If you find yourself in relatively loud situations quite often (e.g. you listen to music for a few hours a day, you attend concerts, you work with loud machinery, etc), your hearing may be deteriorating without you even realizing. If in doubt, get a hearing test and talk to a medical professional.

Here’s the article:

If you’re reading this, you and I certainly have something in common: we love music, and we want to keep enjoying it until our very last day on this earth. Unfortunately, that’s not a given. There’s a reason you keep hearing about proper hearing protection, and that’s why you should listen.

If you own an iPhone and/or an Apple Watch, there’s a feature in them you should definitely know about to help keep your hearing safe.

Audio Levels

In 2019, Apple introduced Audio Levels information to the Health app on iPhone via the iOS 13 update. It’s on by default, so if you listen to music on your iPhone using headphones or earbuds, your data is probably already there, only waiting for you to look at it. Here’s how you do it:

Find and open the Health app on your iPhone.

  • Tap “Browse” on the lower right corner.
  • Tap “Hearing”.
  • Tap “Headphone Audio Levels”.

On this screen, you can find historical data on exactly how loud, in decibels, you were blasting music to your earholes, and whether that was too loud.

How loud is too loud?

As you should know by now if you’re a conscientious musician, any prolonged exposure to sounds over 80db is likely to lead to hearing damage, and potentially tinnitus — which I suffer from, and let me tell you first hand: it’s kind of a bummer. Try to avoid it.

The Headphone Audio Levels feature is massively useful because it can coach you to get used to listening to music at safe sound levels. Over time, if you keep experimenting with different volumes and then checking the app to see how loud they were in decibels, you start to get a really good feel for that safe 80db threshold.

Which is, of course, vital for drummers who play e-drums with headphones. If you keep your drumming below 80db on your ears, at least when practicing, you will keep your hearing safe for years and years to come.

How accurate is this measurement?

Without proper medical hardware to verify the app’s claims, it’s pretty hard to know for sure. But Apple wouldn’t risk the liability of providing people with terrible health information on their Health app, so I think we can at least safely assume it’s not terrible.

Something of note: Apple does claim that headphone audio levels measurements are more accurate if you’re using either Apple or Beats headphones/earbuds. They like to integrate their hardware with their software, so it’s very likely that at least the AirPods have something in them that helps in taking these measurements.

This is especially important for folks out there using the non-Pro model of AirPods — because they don’t have either physical sound isolation or active noise cancellation built into their design, it’s exceedingly easy to go overboard with volume on them. In fact, it’s what I believe caused my own tinnitus to flare up.

What about the ‘Environmental Sound Levels’ panel?

You’ll probably notice this other panel in the “Hearing” section of the Health app called “Environmental Sound Levels”. It measures loudness of the sounds around you in your environment, but there’s a catch: it doesn’t work with the iPhone alone. It uses the Apple Watch to measure environmental sounds, via a native app called Noise.

apple-noise

Since the Watch is always on your person while the iPhone can be inside of a pocket, backpack, or laying on a table, it’s the only reliable way to track environmental sounds.

If you’re equipped to use it, however, it is pretty useful. The Watch can vibrate on your wrist with a notification to warn you if the sounds around you are consistently above a certain threshold (90db as default, but you can change this).

Conclusion

In conclusion, with an iPhone and headphones, you can monitor how loud your headphones audio levels have been over time and always assure they’re on the safe side. Music is often more fun if you play it loud, but it’s absolutely vital to protect your hearing health in the process.

Written by Fabio Bracht – technology enthusiast and aspiring drummer

Photo of author

Mike O'Connor

Drumming has been my passion for over 18 years. I play quite a few different genres and I really enjoy experimenting with hybrid kits that blend acoustic and electronic drums. I love all things drumming!

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