If you know how to use the Apple Watch, you probably know it has a number of health-tracking tools for things like exercise, sleep, and even your menstrual cycle. But there’s a lesser-known wellness feature that might have bigger implications than you realize.
As part of the watchOS 6 update in 2019, Apple launched the Noise app for Apple Watch. The app uses the smartwatch’s built-in microphones to analyze environmental noise and warn users when the noise levels might be dangerous to their long-term ear health.
I’ve received such warnings while at concerts and sports games. Sometimes my blender even sets the notification off, surpassing a noise threshold of 90 decibels. And while I’ve recognized the importance of limiting my noise exposure, new insights from the Apple Hearing Study reveal that there might be other factors to be aware of regarding dangerous noise level exposure.
According to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, 1 in 3 Americans are exposed to “excessive” noise levels. The CDC says that noise above 70 decibels over a “prolonged period of time” can begin to harm your hearing.
The Apple Hearing Study researchers cited a report from 2014 that found hearing damage can have adverse effects on a person’s overall health — not just ear health. Stress, sleep disruption and cardiovascular disease are among conditions that might be exasperated by exposure to dangerous noise levels over an extended period of time.
What’s more, your location, age and race appear to play a role in how likely you are to experience dangerous noise levels. For example, participants in the study ages 35-44 years experienced double the exposure that those ages 65 and older. Percentages were also higher among Black (37%) and Hispanic adults (34%) who participated in the study.
I encourage you to check out this interactive map that lets you explore the percentages of study participants exposed to dangerous noise levels by state, age, race and sex.
Monitoring hearing health with your Apple Watch — what you can do
If you have the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch SE (2022) or older Apple Watch model that supports software updates, you can use the Noise app to monitor your noise exposure. When you’re setting up a new Apple Watch, enabling exposure notifications is one of the initial prompts, but you can manage the settings at any time in the Noise app via the Watch app.
Knowing the sound levels around you may persuade you to move to a different location, or start wearing earplugs in places where you regularly experience dangerous noise levels. That said, if you’re looking for an easy solution to such noise problems, you might want to consider using a pair of AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro are some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy. When you’re wearing AirPods Pro, you can check the Noise app on your Apple Watch to see the difference in the noise around you vs. the noise reaching your ears.
Not only can they block out external noises, but the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) in particular can automatically adapt to environmental sounds, too. The adaptive transparency feature lets you continue to hear the world around you, but will lessen the sound of loud noises such as a nearby ambulance siren or construction to a safer listening level.
In conjunction, the Apple Watch and AirPods Pro can help you protect your hearing. As the Apple Hearing Study highlights, hearing health is something that users should take seriously to avoid long-term health complications. Be sure to check out the best Apple Watch deals and best AirPods deals now if some savings on the products will encourage you to start using the Noise app to monitor your environmental sounds.