Smartphones, tablets, and digital devices are rolling out a new wave of accessibility tools to help those with hearing loss. Hearing loss affects more people than one would expect, and it continues to be a growing concern. In fact, the World Health Organization predicts that 1 in 4 people will have some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
There are many factors that lead to hearing loss, one of them being listening to music at high levels. You may have seen the notification “Volume level is too high” pop up on your phone, and dismiss it because you are in the middle of working out and find the notification to be an annoying disruption.
However, you should think twice when your phone is trying to warn you. Hearing is measured in units known as decibels or dB. When you listen to sounds over 85 dB for an extended period of time, your hearing can start to become damaged. Once this happens, there is no turning back, as hearing loss is permanent and cannot be cured. So, next time your phone is telling you to turn your music down, you should listen to it.
Safe Listening SmartPhone Tips
There are steps you can take ahead of time to prevent your device from telling you your music is too loud. Apple has a few built in features aimed to help you control and track your volume.
- Go to Settings > Control Center > Hearing
When you connect your headphones / AirPods to play audio, you can open the Control Center and tap the ear icon to view the decibel level. In addition, if your headphones have a microphone, you can also turn Live Listen on to measure the noise level of your surroundings
Android lacks a built-in measurement feature, but there are many free apps that you can download as an alternative. One good options is Sound Meter. Sound Meter allows for the measure of noise around you in decibels.
Apple Watch Features
If you own an apple watch, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to access safe listening suggestions and tips.
- Tap on the My Watch tab.
- Then, tap on Noise > Noise Threshold
Here, you will see WHO guidelines on noise exposure and can customize this to a decibel Lebel so your Apple Watch alerts you when the average sound level hits or exceeds that threshold for three minutes.
In addition, the Health App on your iPhone allows you to review your headphone audio and environmental sound levels for the past year.
- Go to Health App, and you can then find this under Hearing on the Browse tab
Real-Time Captions on Your Phone
Live captions were recently introduced by Google in 2019, and have a significant impact for those who struggle with hearing loss. This feature provides automatically captioned videos and spoken audio on your device in real-time (meaning you don’t need Wi-Fi or cellular connection in order to use it).
Since this is a newer feature, not all phones have this capability yet. Devices where Live Captioning is already installed includes the following: any devices running Android 10 or later, Google’s Chrome Browser, Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 9, 10, and more.
To access Live Captioning on these devices, simply go to:
Settings > Accessibility > Live Caption
Coming Soon to Apple: Live Captioning / Additional Hearing Features
Apple has yet to release Live Captions on their devices, but it recently announced plans for this feature coming to iPhone, iPad, and Mac later this year.
Another exciting feature Apple products plan on rolling out in this release is Custom Sound Recognition. With this, deaf and hard of hearing individuals will be able to “teach” their phones to listen for more specific kinds of audio cues. This will help distinguish specific sounds from one another. Rather than just categorizing appliance sounds all in one category, a user will be able to decipher a “microwave’s ding” versus a “dryer ding.” This will help tell sounds apart, and your phone will send you the correct notification when your food is warm versus when your clothes are dry.
With more accessibility tools rolling out on devices this year, the deaf and hard of hearing community will see a positive impact in their life. These features allowing for many things, will overall improve the ability for someone with hearing loss to better connect and communicate with their family, friends, and loved ones. If you or someone you know struggles with hearing loss, don’t hesitate to get your hearing tested. Our expert audiologists at Lake Shore Audiology will help test and provide treatment best suited towards your specific hearing loss. Contact us today at (716) 674-4188.
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