A brand-new Noise app for Apple Watch that features a built-in decibel meter along with an automatic notification is one of the few interesting hearing health innovations in watchOS 6 because it helps protect people from decibel levels that may easily damage their hearing.
Noise, a new Apple stock app for Apple Watch, was announced as part of the watchOS 6 update which was released for developer testing following the WWDC 2019 keynote on June 3.
It’s scheduled to release for everyone as a free software update in Fall 2019.
Why do I need a decibel meter on Apple Watch?
Here’s your answer, straight from Apple:
Noise can rise to levels that may damage your hearing without your even realizing it. The Noise app senses when the roar of the crowd or the rumble of machinery reaches a level that may pose a risk. So you can step out or plug up to give your ears a needed break.
You may shrug off Apple’s warning, thinking your hearing works perfectly.
Unfortunately, hearing loss happens so gradually and over longer periods of time that you don’t even notice it until it’s too late. And we all know or should be aware of the fact that keeping your hearing in good condition is key to maintaining your independence as you grow older.
The Noise app uses the microphone in your watch to periodically measure noise levels throughout the day. You can also measure the noise level in real time, a life-saver when in loud environments that could easily negatively impact your hearing.
How to use the decibel meter on Apple Watch
By default, your Apple Watch will warn you when your average sound level over a period of three minutes reaches or exceeds 90 decibels. When that happens, you’ll feel a gentle buzz on your wrist and an alert will pop up on the Apple Watch display.
You can tap the notification to open the Noise app and see more details.
According to findings by the World Health Organization, experiencing 90 decibels of noise for four hours per week negatively impacts one’s hearing.
How to check noise level in real time
To check your noise level in real time, do the following:
1) Press the Digital Crown to get to the Home screen, then tap the Noise app icon to launch the app. You can also put the app in your Dock for quicker access or use Siri to open Noise.
2) As the noise level around you changes, the onscreen decibel meter moves dynamically, in real time. The Noise app rates the current noise level as either OK or Loud. To learn more about decimal ranges, scroll down and tap Learn More.
If you’re in a construction zone and the Noise app has warned you of potentially damaging noise levels, move somewhere else as soon as possible. The same goes if you’re at a sporting event, rock concert or some other venue that produces loud noises.
You could also try putting on your AirPods. Better yet, use your Powerbeats Pro or another noise-cancelling headphones to block out some of the environmental sounds.
Your hearing can get damaged quite easily by playing your favorite music, too.
Adjusting the noise level threshold
The app defaults to notifying you when the current noise level reaches 90 decibels. You can change that threshold to your liking, but are strongly discouraged from doing so.
1) Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
2) Tap the My Watch tab.
3) Choose Noise from the list.
4) Slide the toggle Environmental Sound Measurements to the OFF position.
5) Tap the field Noise Threshold underneath the heading Noise Notifications, then change the threshold from the list of the following choices:
- 80 decibels
- 85 decibels
- 90 decibels
- 95 decibels
- 100 decibels
According to onscreen instructions, being exposed to a noise level between 90 and 95 decibels for just half an hour per day can cause temporary hearing loss. Similarly, a hundred decibels or higher will cause temporary hearing loss after just ten minutes of exposure.
Apple’s hearing health solution in watchOS 6 also includes a complication that you can put on your watch face to launch the Noise app with a quick tap, useful for those times when you’d like to quickly measure the level of noise in your current surroundings.
Analyzing noise levels
Detailed analysis is accessible through iOS 13’s Health app for iPhone that includes a new section in which all of the recorded decibel levels are listed so power uses could gain a better understanding of the damage these loud sounds pose in various environments.
This is where you’ll see some expanded information not available in the Noise app on the watch. The Health app also lets you edit that data, see when you received notifications about loud noise and browse a history of recorded n noise levels.
But wait, what about privacy?
Apple doesn’t record your audio?
The Noise app doesn’t record or save your audio.
The software simply performs on-device analysis of the environmental noise as heard by the device microphone to track the duration of your exposure. This is all performed directly on the device. No audio is recorded on the device, let alone sent to the cloud.
Apple notes that water or wind can affect the accuracy of noise levels.
It’s worth reiterating that all data from Apple Watch’s Health features is safely encrypted on-device. And if you enable iCloud back up, data is encrypted in iCloud, too.
watchOS 6 compatibility
Like watchOS 5, the watchOS 6 update is compatible with all watches except the original Series 0 model. watchOS 6 runs fine on Series 1, Series 2, Series 3 and Series 4 watches but some features may require newer hardware.
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