Study shows Apple Watch accurately measures decibel levels

Photo credit: cottonbro studio

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Sound level meter apps are available on later model Apple iWatches but some have wondered about the accuracy of the iWatch noise measurements. As published online March 9 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, researchers at the University of California, Irvine compared an Apple Watch Series 6 noise measurements with a very accurate sound level meter, designated a class I meter. They found the Apple Watch Noise app to be statistically just as accurate as the professional sound meter.

This is great news for anyone who owns a later model iWatch. More than 100 million Apple Watches have been sold world wide, with probably tens of millions in use in the U.S. Sound measurements can be taken quickly and easily, so there is no need to purchase a separate sound meter or to install a sound meter app on your smartphone.

Even better news is that you don’t need an Apple Watch or a smart phone sound level meter app to know what the sound level is. If you can’t carry on a normal conversation without difficulty speaking or listening, the ambient sound level is above 75 A-weighted decibels* and your auditory health is at risk. The only evidence-based safe noise level to prevent hearing loss is a time-weighted average of 70 decibels for a day, and one hour at 85 dBA will be one’s total daily safe noise dose.

Even if you’re not trying to have a conversation, remember this “Love Your Ears” tip: If it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk. Leave the noisy environment, turn down the volume, or use hearing protection to avoid noise-induced auditory damage.

*A-weighting adjusts unweighted sound measurements to approximate the frequencies heard in human speech.

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