How to measure headphone audio levels on iPhone to protect your hearing

Your iPhone and iPad can help prevent hearing loss with an optional tool to measure headphone audio levels in real time, and our step-by-step tutorial shows you how to use it.

how apple helps protect your hearing loss

apple has created features for iphone and apple watch that alert you if sound levels around you or in your headphones are above a safe level, preventing permanent hearing damage.

Reading: Headphone audio levels iphone

With the release of the iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 software updates in 2018, Apple implemented a couple of features that help protect your hearing. The first feature allows iPhone owners to see if they are exposed to high volume levels through their headphones for long periods of time. the other leverages apple watch health sensors to detect if the wearer is exposed to high volume levels in their environment.

The teaser image for the article explaining how to measure headphone audio levels on iPhone

Beginning with the iOS and iPadOS 14.2, additional hearing options have cropped up. For instance, you can now get a notification when high audio levels could impact your hearing. Also, you can measure headphone audio levels in real-time with a new Control Center option.

things to know about hearing

Sound levels are commonly measured in weighted decibels. long-term exposure to volume levels below 80 decibels is considered “ok” and should not affect your hearing.

→ how to use noise app on apple watch

in that case, the measurement icon will be green. however, long-term exposure to sounds above 80 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage. Sounds measured at this level are labeled “loud” by Apple, and the measurement icon turns yellow instead of green.

The Sounds and Haptics settings on iPhone with Example Sound Levels in the Hearing section on iPhone

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According to Apple:

  • 75 decibels: as loud as a vacuum cleaner.
  • 80 decibels: as loud as a noisy restaurant. about 5 hours and 30 minutes per day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss. the weekly limit at this level is 40 hours.
  • 85 decibels: as loud as heavy city traffic. about 1 hour and 45 minutes per day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss. the weekly limit at this level is around 12 hours and 30 minutes.
  • 90 decibels: as loud as a motorcycle. about 30 minutes per day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss. the weekly limit at this level is 4 hours.
  • 95 decibels: as loud as a car horn. just 10 minutes a day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss. the weekly limit at this level is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • 100 decibels: as loud as an ambulance siren. even a few minutes per day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss. the weekly limit on this level is about 20 minutes.

Follow the helpful step-by-step tutorial below as we show you how to measure headphone audio levels on your iPhone in real time.

how to measure headphone audio levels

enabling the new control center option in ios and ipados 14.2 or later gives you an easy way to see the current headphone audio levels (measured in real time) to make sure you’re not listening at a level of volume that could affect your hearing over time.

  • open the settings app on your iphone or ipad.
  • tap “control center” in the root list.
  • tap the green “+” button next to to “audience” to add the option to the control center.

That’s it, now you can get real-time headphone audio measurements through the control center. just open the control center overlay the next time you’re listening to something on your headphones and you’ll see the audio metering icon along with your current decibel levels. The interface for this resembles the noise app interface on apple watch.

The Control Center on iOS 14 with the Hearing option shown in action on iPhone

These readings are more accurate from compatible headsets like the AirPods that have built-in microphones which can measure the volume levels inside your ear. Measurements from wired headphones like the EarPods are estimated based on the volume of your iPhone.

examine headphone volume level records saved in health

With enough data available, you can explore your headphone audio levels captured over the last hour, day, week, month, and year in your iPhone’s Health app: hit the “home” tab in the app, then tap the “hearing” option and look for “headphone audio levels”.

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You’ll want to pay special attention to those “strong” disks. again, please be advised that prolonged exposures to volumes above 80 decibels may permanently damage your hearing.

The Health app on iOS 14 with the Headphone Audio Levels screen on iPhone

To access additional details, such as your volume range, daily average, audio levels by headphone type, and more, hit the button “Show All Filters”. As mentioned, you can optionally elect to receive a notification when loud headphone volume could affect your hearing.

how to get loud headphone audio notification

you need to enable a specific option in the ios and ipados 14.2 settings if you want to be notified and have the headphone volume automatically reduced after exceeding the safe weekly dose recommended by the world health organization.

  • open the settings app on your iphone or ipad.
  • tap “sounds & haptics” in the root list.
  • press “headset security”.
  • turn on the “reduce loud sounds” option and set the desired threshold.

this is how it looks.

Headphone Safety settings on iPhone with the Reduce Loud Sounds option turned on

Now when listening to headphone audio for long enough at an unsafe volume, a notification will appear on the display of your iOS device. “If you exceed the recommended 7-day limit, a notification is sent and the volume turned down,” Apple says.

apple notes that the headphone security notification cannot be turned off.

You can view the details for a notification in the Health app: tap the Browse tab and choose Hearing → Headphone Notifications, then tap the notification. Apple notes that this notification may be turned on by default in specific markets. “In some countries or regions, you may not be able to turn off Headphone Notifications,” cautions the company.

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