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Wellness

Apple Watch Noise app: Everything you need to know

This new WatchOS app hopes to help prevent gradual hearing loss.

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James Martin/CNET

At WWDC 2019 Apple debuted Noise, a new app for WatchOS that supposedly can protect you from hearing loss. Apple has been making big strides in health tech, first with adding the EKG feature to the Apple Watch series 4, and now with Noise.

Here's everything you need to know about Apple's latest health endeavor.

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What is Apple's new Noise app?

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Apple

Available only for the Apple Watch, the Noise app detects loud environments and notifies you when it thinks you may be at risk for hearing damage.

The app uses the watch's built-in microphone to measure the decibels at concerts, theaters, parades, construction zones and other loud situations that generally aren't good for your ears. 

If you think you may be in an at-risk environment, you can open the app and check the decibel meter, which adjusts in real time. 

But, you don't even remember to open the app in loud situations -- Noise will automatically notify you if the sound around you is 90 decibels or higher. That's about as loud as a lawn mower or a motorcycle driving past you on the street.

How does hearing loss happen?

There are three types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive (interferes with the way sound waves travel through the ear)
  • Sensorineural (results from damage to the ear or nerves within the ear)
  • Mixed (combination of the two) 

Common causes of hearing loss include damage to the inner ear; buildup of earwax, dirt or other substances; ear infections and ruptured eardrums. Exposure to loud environments can exacerbate hearing loss, and Apple built the Noise app to help limit your exposure.

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How does the Noise app prevent hearing loss?

The big problem with hearing loss is that most of the time, it happens gradually. Most people don't notice subtle changes to their hearing until it becomes significantly more difficult to hear, such as having trouble hearing during a conversation when you're right next to someone. Often, people only seek treatment when they notice changes like that, and at that point, the damage has been done.

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The Noise app is proactive versus reactive: Instead of just hoping hearing loss doesn't happen to you, you can take care to monitor the environments you're in and prevent hearing loss from happening in the first place.

For example, if you're at a football game and Noise pings you, you can grab some protective earplugs. As the sound levels change, so does the decibel meter, so you get an accurate picture of what's going on. And you can always take the ear plugs out if and when the decibel level goes down.

If you're worried about your Apple Watch recording the environment you're in, don't be. Apple says the app doesn't record or save any audio.

How can I get the Noise app?

This app isn't live just yet: It's part of Apple's WatchOS 6 beta, and should roll out to everyone in fall 2019.

As Apple continues pushing the Apple Watch as a health device, expect it -- and other Apple products -- to become more health-centric as developers continue to find new ways to make tech work for people, not against them. 

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Apple Watch Series 4 GPS (40mm silver aluminum case, white sport band)
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