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iOS 15: Background Sounds Feature Is Here to Help You Focus

Listen to some ocean waves or a light rain from the comfort of your home with this iOS feature.

Zachary McAuliffe Staff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
Expertise Web hosting, operating systems, applications and software Credentials
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Zachary McAuliffe
3 min read
Working from home in your home office

Block out your surroundings with Background Sounds in iOS 15.

Anna Nekrashevich/Pexels

When I work, I need noise to focus. Sometimes I listen to Spotify playlists, but that can lead me to dance in my chair. Or I'll turn on a podcast and get too invested in the hidden history of highways. So when I found Background Sounds tucked into the iOS 15 update, it seemed like the perfect solution. 

Brett Pearce/CNET

Apple unveiled Background Sounds in the update alongside other health and wellness features like Focus, improvements to the Health app like Trends and the ability to share your Health app information with others. 

Background Sounds offers six different ambient noises that play on a loop: rain, stream and ocean, as well as bright, balanced and dark noise, which are different pitches of white noise. You can play these by themselves or under any podcast, music or video streaming app.

Listening to natural sounds can lower stress, relieve perceived pain and foster a more positive disposition, according to research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. White noise could help adults learn new words, and it could improve learning in environments full of distractions, according to different studies. Natural sounds and white noise can also help lull listeners to sleep.

Here's how to turn on Background Sounds in iOS 15.

Set up Background Sounds

After you've updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 15:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Swipe down and tap Accessibility.

3. Swipe down again and tap Audio/Visual.

4. Tap Background Sounds.

5. Tap the toggle at the top of the screen to turn Background Sounds on. 

6. Tap Sound to listen to the different noise options. If you're using the feature for the first time, the sounds have to download, so it might take a second. 

Choose Use When Media Is Playing, the toggle in the middle of the screen,toallow Background Sounds to keep playing while you're watching a video or listening to music. Choose Stop Sounds When Locked, the toggle near the bottom of the screen, and Background Sounds will turn off when your device locks. Turn this toggle off and the sounds will continue to play when your device locks.

Background Sounds using Control Center

Instead of searching through Settings each time you want to turn Background Sounds on, you can set up a toggle in the Control Center. Here's how:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Scroll down and tap Control Center.

3. Scroll down to Hearing, and tap the green plus (+) sign to add it to your Control Center

4. Open your Control Center.

5. Tap the ear icon.

6. On the next screen tap Background Sounds to turn the feature on and choose your preferred sound. You can turn the volume up or down using the slider in the middle of the screen, but your device volume buttons will also work. 

7. You can also tap the ear icon at the bottom of the screen labelled Background Sounds to turn the feature on or off. 

Background Sounds using Accessibility shortcuts

An accessibility shortcut is the fastest option to turn Background Sounds on or off. This lets you turn the feature on or off when you triple-click your side button. Here's how to set it up:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Swipe down and tap Accessibility.

3. Swipe down again and tap Accessibility Shortcut.

4. Tap Background Sounds

For more information, check out all the new iOS 15.4 features, our a view of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max in hues of green and how Zoom's focus feature to keep students' eyes up front.

Watch this: Top iPhone Tips: CNET's Mobile Experts Demo Our Go-To Shortcuts