iPhone and Apple Watch include a wide range of valuable health features and a couple of them that don’t get much attention include measuring ambient and headphone noise levels. Read along for a look at how to protect from hearing loss by checking decibel levels on iPhone and Apple Watch.

Background

In the US, an estimated 37.5 million adults have trouble hearing, and men are believed to be twice as likely to experience hearing loss as women (via the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders).

Thankfully, iPhone and Apple Watch feature both ambient (environmental) and headphone decibel monitoring that are quick and easy to use, including noise threshold warnings. That makes it much easier to prevent hearing damage and loss by knowing when to turn down the volume, use ear protection, or leave a loud environment.

How loud is too loud?

So what’s a harmful decibel level? That depends on the amount of time you’re exposed along with the level of noise. Here’s what Apple says:

Repeated, long-term exposure to sounds above 80 dB can lead to permanent damage. Consider using hearing protection or moving to a quieter area.

Apple Watch also shares examples of noise levels/time exposure that can lead to temporary hearing loss:

  • 80 db: Around 5 hours and 30 minutes a day
  • 85 dB: Around 1 hour and 45 minutes a day
  • 90 dB: Around 30 minutes a day
  • 95 dB: Just 10 minutes a day
  • 100 dB: Even a few minutes a day

How to check decibel levels with iPhone and Apple Watch

Decibel levels with iPhone and iPad

Interestingly, Apple doesn’t make its watchOS Noise app available on iPhone and iPad, so here’s how to check decibel levels:

  • Open the Settings app and choose Control Center
  • If it’s not already showing under the “Included Controls,” swipe below and look for the green + icon next to Hearing
  • Connect headphones to your iPhone
  • Now open Control Center (swipe down from the top right corner of your screen) and look for the ear icon to see headphone dB levels
  • To turn on alerts for loud headphone audio, head to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Headphone Notifications and tap the toggle
  • And you can limit loud sounds in headphones by heading to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Headphone Safety > toggle on Reduce Loud Sounds
How to check decibel levels with iPhone and Apple Watch - iPhone > Control Center > Hearing
  • If you’re playing music with headphones connected, you’ll see the decibel meter appear in the Hearing tile in Control Center
    • Green desinates “OK” levels and yellow marks “Loud” levels that can damage hearing
  • Tap the Hearing icon to learn more about your headphone noise levels
How to check decibel levels with iPhone and Apple Watch - Open Control Center on iPhone > look for Ear icon tile
  • With music paused, you can use the microphone of your headphones to measure the ambient decibel levels
  • Tap the microphone icon that says Live Listen in the bottom left corner (or tap the Live Listen rectangle)
How to check decibel levels with iPhone and Apple Watch - Open Control Center on iPhone > look for Ear icon tile > tap Live Listen to get ambient decibel level
  • Finally, you can also check your hearing history of both ambient and headphone decibel levels in the Health app
    • Tap the Browse tab at the bottom
    • Now choose Hearing

Check decibel levels with Apple Watch

You can measure both ambient and headphone decibel levels with Apple Watch and the former works with the dedicated Noise app. One neat option with the wearable to have quick-access readings is with the Noise app complication.

  • To check ambient decibel levels, open the Noise app on Apple Watch (you can also turn it on via iPhone in the Apple Watch app > Noise)
  • If you haven’t used the Noise app before, choose to Enable the feature
  • You can learn more about the decibel level you’re exposed to by tapping Learn More at the bottom of the Noise app
  • If you want fast access to decibel levels on Apple Watch, make a watch face with the Noise app compliation
  • If you don’t enable Noise app notifications when setting up the feature, you can head back to the Watch app on iPhone > Noise > Noise Threshold to change the limit/noise notificiations
  • To check headphone decibel levels on Apple Watch, open Control Center on your watch (swipe up from the bottom of the screen from your watchface)
  • Swipe down to the bottom
  • Tap the ear icon

And here’s a look at how Noise warnings look on Apple Watch:

How to check decibel levels on Apple Watch and iPhone - Apple Watch noise warnings

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About the Author

Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.