How to use AirPods and the Health app in iOS 14 to protect your hearing

Limiting volume exposure on your iOS devices can help protect your hearing in the long run. Learn how to actively monitor volume levels and protect your hearing health with iOS 14.4 and AirPods.

ioshearing-hero.jpg

Image: CNET

Throughout the past year and continuing into this year, more and more of us have been relying on and wearing AirPods throughout the day to complete video calls and online meetings on our iOS devices. This reliance on wearing headphones for long periods of time can have a potential effect on hearing if the volume is turned up too loud and exposed over long periods of time.

With iOS and the Health app, your AirPods (and some compatible third-party devices) can be used to monitor your listening time and volume exposure to determine if it is unhealthy. In this article, we'll walk through how to set up volume limits and hearing health in iOS to monitor your exposure and resolve over exposure issues.

SEE: Hardware inventory policy (TechRepublic Premium)

How to set up the Health app

Beginning in iOS 14.2, iOS users are able to track headphone audio levels and get notifications for overexposure of volume. To enable this feature, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Sound & Haptics | Headphone Safety.
  3. Enable the option for Headphone Notifications (Figure A).

Figure A

ioshearing-figure-a.jpg

In this view, you can easily view the notifications that have been generated in the past six months, enable or disable the feature (if available), or add the ability for iOS to automatically reduce volume levels.

Note: This feature is enabled by default in some countries and regions and cannot be disabled. If this option isn't available, then it is turned on and enabled by default. With this option enabled (manually, or by default), it will send a notification to your listening device letting you know if your listening volume is at an unhealthy level.

Inside of this Headphone Safety view, you can also set up your iOS device so that it will automatically reduce the volume so that should it ever go over the set decibel level, the volume will reduce to be under that level. Toggle the Reduce Loud Sounds switch to the On position, then use the slider to set the volume.

AirPods can automatically be used to detect high volume levels that could potentially damage hearing and report that to the health app. However, you can use third-party supported Bluetooth headphones and speakers to do the same, but it requires you to categorize the device in Bluetooth settings in iOS 14.4 or later. To do this:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Bluetooth.
  3. Tap the "i" button beside of the device you wish to classify.
  4. Tap Device Type, then select the type of audio device it is (Car Stereo, Headphone, Hearing Aid, Speaker, or other) (Figure B).

Figure B

ioshearing-figure-b.jpg

By categorizing the device type for Bluetooth headphones, you're able to begin receiving volume exposure notifications for supported devices.

Apple notes in their documentation for this feature that the measurements of audio are most accurate when using Apple or Beats headphones. Volume exposure for audio played through other headphones are calculated based on the volume of the iPhone. 

How to view your exposure in the Health app

The Health app in iOS gives you an overview of the exposure over time, and all volume exposure is logged to the Health database on your iPhone where you can view it at any time. You will also receive notifications on your device should the decibel level reach the maximum healthy threshold. 

Browse your exposure data by doing the following:

  1. Open the Health app.
  2. Tap the Browse tab at the bottom, then Hearing.
  3. Tap Headphone Audio Levels (Figure C).

Figure C

ioshearing-figure-c.jpg

Sort data by timeframe using the selector at the top to view exposure over time range of a week to a year.

 You can drag your finger across the graph in the Health app to see exposure levels in a decibel range for the weekly, monthly, or yearly view. You can also get a description of the decibel recordings by scrolling down and reading the About Headphone Audio Levels section in the Health app. 

Also see