‘I’m an Audiologist, and the New Apple Watch Noise App Could Save Your Hearing’

Photo: Getty Images/Emir Memedovski
As far as I'm concerned, music should only be listened to one way: at full volume. What can I say? Some like it loud, and I'm one of those people. Now that the Apple Watch is strapped to to my wrist, I've been forced to reconsider just how the volume when I play Cardi B. The new Apple Watch noise app keeps track of the decibels within your immediate surroundings. And for those of us who would like to keep our hearing well into old age, the new feature is definitely a wakeup call.

Garrett Thompson, AuD, an audiologist at New York City's Resnick Audiology, says you shouldn't ignore the new noise app. "Being aware of how much noise one is exposed to is important," he says. "Damage to one's hearing from noise exposure is cumulative over a lifetime, so even noise damage at a young age can contribute to poorer hearing later in life." What's more, losing your ability to listen to others affects your health in a more ways than one. "Hearing loss has consequences beyond asking a friend to repeat themselves. We know it is linked to social isolation, depression, and even cognitive decline."

Apple's brand-new noise app (yellow with a tiny ear illustration) listens to the space around you and reports back on the harmfulness of noise levels, with indicators ranging from"OK" to "LOUD." If you want to get even more specific, the app breaks down amplified noises into the following sub-categories:

80dB: "Around 5 hours and 30 minutes a day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss."
Example: city traffic

85dB: "Around 1 hour and 45 minutes  a day at this level can cause permanent hearing loss."
Example: leaf blowers

90dB: "Around 30 minutes a day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss."
Example: motorcycle

95dB: "Just 10 minutes a day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss."
Example: motorcycle

100db: "Even a few minutes a day at this level can cause temporary hearing loss
Example: approaching subway train

If you prefer to check your noise exposure ad hoc, you can head to the noise app at any time. Or, for more periodic reminder to care for your ears, go into your notifications menu to authorize Apple Watch to send you push notifications when you've entered a space that's too cacophonous. Dr. Thompson says this will likely occur when you're in the subway, at a bar, listening to a concert, catching a game, or operating noisy power tools. "You could use this feature to know when to use hearing protection, such as over-the-counter or custom earplugs," says Dr. Thompson.

Okay, okay, so the Apple Watch noise app isn't the wearable's sexiest feature. But if you're at all interested in protecting your hearing, you'd best listen up.

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