Did you know your Apple Watch can monitor your exposure to noise?
In the modern day urban environment, we are exposed to high levels of noise almost everywhere we go. Traffic noise, construction machinery, people chatting/yelling at eachother on the street or noise in your office all influence our exposure to harmful levels of noise which can cause lasting damage to our hearing.
When sound enters your ear, it causes the bones and hairs inside the ear to vibrate which transmits the sound to the brain. Hearing loss can be caused by a single, very loud noise such as a firework near your ear, but more often damage is caused by repeated exposures to high levels of noise. Longer term, repeated exposures without giving your ears a chance to recover can cause damage to the inner hairs of the ear, which can result in permanent hearing damage or loss.
Noise/sound levels are measured in dB (decibels), with anything over 80 dB generally considered to be ‘loud’.
Monitor your exposure
Monitoring our exposure to loud sounds is not something that most of us are used to or familiar with. But did you know that your devices can help you track your daily exposure to noise, and provide warnings when sound could be causing damage to your hearing?
The latest Apple Watch provides a noise app which is actually pretty accurate at tracking your exposure to noise throughout the day (as long as you are wearing it of course). The app is designed to help watch wearers maintain healthy hearing by alerting when exposure levels are too high. Data from headphone use has also been integrated into the Apple Health app, allowing you to maintain safe volume levels.
This is extremely helpful for people who are exposed to loud noises every day whether through working, during their commute or just through daily life. Hearing loss can be gradual over time, and keeping track of daily, weekly and monthly exposure to noise can be crucial to limiting any significant and lasting damage to your hearing.
In offices, noise can come from many sources. Loud air conditioning, conversations happening around the office, phones ringing, loud typing, nearby construction the list goes on. The problem is that offices tend to actually get louder over time, as people feel the need to talk louder to be heard (only adding to the problem). Whilst even the busiest of open plan offices is unlikely to exceed 80dB for long enough to cause any serious damage to your hearing, we are well aware of the impacts of noise on overall productivity, wellbeing and comfort.
The newer watches (or ones with the most up to date software) will gives alerts when your noise exposure is getting too high. The hearing app also gives recommendations and guidelines for approximate decibel levels of common noises, and how long you can be exposed to them before causing damage.
How can you protect your hearing?
If you know you will be exposed to loud noise (or your watch tells you that you are) then there are easy ways to protect yourself. On building sites, hearing protection should always be available to those working or moving through the area. Giving your ears a break after exposure to noises over 80 dB can also help protect your long term hearing, by allowing the hairs and skin within your ear to regenerate.
In an office setting, using ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones (without sound playing) can be a great way to reduce your exposure to distracting noise within the office and prevent any potential damage.