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How to Adjust Volume Limiting on Your iPhone

How to Adjust Volume Limiting on Your iPhone

Apple AirPods Pro, Second Generation
image credit: Apple

published by Chand Bellur
November 12, 2022 at 1:16 p.m.
  • Loud sounds can damage hearing over time.
  • Listening to high-volume music on your iPhone with headphones may cause hearing loss.
  • An iPhone with headphones can reach a maximum of 100 decibels (dBs), which can damage hearing with minimal exposure.
  • You can limit audio levels on your iPhone to ensure health and safety.
  • Today, the iPhone offers Headphone Safety controls and monitors ambient audio for exposure levels.
  • Apple’s audio-limiting technology harkens back decades to the introduction of the iPod.

Earphones Are A Leading Cause of Hearing Loss

We live in a noisy world. Even if you live in a rural area, noises from agricultural machinery and even thunderclaps can damage hearing. Loud buses, airplanes, and thumping stereos plague cities with noise. But most people self-inflict auditory damage with everyday use of headphones and earbuds.

Unlike traditional wrap-around headphones, which are bad for your ears, in-ear listening devices, such as Apple’s AirPods and EarPods, can easily cause hearing damage if misused. Even at a reasonable volume, using headphones can cause hearing loss over time

According to health experts, earbuds are worse than headphones when it comes to hearing loss. Because the driver is so close to one’s eardrums, permanent hearing damage is more likely with earbuds than headphones.

The following chart, available in Apple’s Headphone Safety controls, shows us how much noise we can tolerate and for how long. The general rule is that the louder the sound, the less we should be exposed to it. For example, turning up your iPhone full blast and listening on headphones for more than 24 minutes per week will damage your hearing.

Chart of Sound Levels and Exposure Limits

Apple Cares About Your Hearing

Apple takes noise seriously. They have for a long time. The company introduced volume limiting decades ago with the iPod, partly due to EU regulations.

A lot has changed since then. With its sophisticated sensors and microphones, the iPhone now monitors ambient noise at all times, compiling a report of your exposure. Your iPhone will even warn you to turn your headphones or earphones down if you’ve been listening at loud levels for too long.

Apple also introduced a feature called “Reduce Loud Sounds.” It enables users to set a volume limit on music.

By default, a modern-day iPhone running the latest version of iOS (16.0 or later), will monitor ambient and audio levels along with connected sources, such as headphones and earbuds. But Reduce Loud Sounds is not activated by default, so your connected AirPods or EarPods can get as loud as 100 dB. That’s loud enough to damage your hearing with minimal exposure — only 24 minutes a week.

Some may turn off this feature for good reason. If you’re connected to Bluetooth speakers, you may want to increase the volume output on your iPhone to save battery power on your external device. After all, if the audio level coming out of your iPhone is low, you’ll need to crank up your Bluetooth speaker to compensate.

Also, all headphones are different. There may be some Bluetooth headphones that are less powerful than others. Maybe they have weak drivers. Apple’s volume-limiting technology can’t determine the actual output of your headphones. It’s calibrated for Apple and Beats devices. Turning off Reduce Loud Sounds will improve audio levels if you’re using some third-party headphones that need to be louder.

If you’re getting constant alerts from iOS telling you that your iPhone’s “Volume Should Be Turned Down”, you should heed these warnings. If your headphones aren’t loud enough, adjusting Reduce Loud Sounds can also help. Let’s look at changing your iPhone’s volume limits.

How to Adjust Volume Limiting on Your iPhone

Here are step-by-step instructions to adjust your iPhone’s volume limit:

  1. Open the Settings App
  2. Tap on Sound & Haptics > Headphone Saftey
  3. The Headphone Safety screen appears. Switch on Reduce Loud Sounds.
  4. A slider appears. Adjust the slider to your desired level. Keep the above chart of audio levels in mind. We recommend 80 dB for those who use their iPhone with earbuds frequently.
  5. Turn Reduce Loud Sounds off if you need more volume from your iPhone.

Consider Changing EQ Settings Instead of Turning Up Volume

If you’re getting constant “Volume Should Be Turned Down” warnings on your iPhone, but your music isn’t loud enough, sometimes EQ can help. Turning up the midrange or reducing low frequencies can often make music sound more audible. If you can hear the music better, you can reduce the overall volume, which is good for your hearing health.

Many music apps, such as Apple Music and Spotify, offer EQs. Apple Music only offers EQ presets, but one is perfect for boosting music audibility — Loudness.

Apple didn’t invent loudness equalization; however, it’s a fixture in Apple Music. Loudness turns up the bass and treble, making your music feel louder at lower levels. It may help with some forms of music but may be imperceptible with others.

Another approach is to lower bass and treble or increase mid-range frequencies. Either way will make music sound more audible and present, as we’re most sensitive to frequencies between 1000 and 4000 Hz.

It’s best to experiment with Apple Music EQ settings to find out which sounds best. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Launch Apple Music and start playing a song.
  2. Open Settings and tap on Music > EQ
  3. Tap on different EQ presets to find the best sound for your music

Turn on SoundCheck in Apple Music to Make Quiet Music Louder

Apple Music contains another great feature that can help you enjoy music without fiddling with volume controls. Mastering engineers produce music at varying levels. Today’s tunes are thunderous compared to older music. Rock is noisier than an acoustic guitar ballad. Some songs have a wide dynamic range, with soft and loud sounds on the same track. Songs mastered in classic stereo often sound louder than those produced with Dolby Atmos.

Realizing the differences in mastering levels and dynamics, Apple created the Sound Check feature. It keeps sound levels approximately the same between songs, so you don’t need to fiddle with volume levels.

Turning on Sound Check is easy. Open Settings and tap on Music. Then turn Sound Check on. Your music will now have equivalent volumes across different albums and tracks.

Don’t Turn Off iPhone Volume Limiting If You’re Hearing Impaired

In researching this article, I came across a non-expert site claiming people should turn off Reduce Loud Sounds if they suffer from hearing impairment. This is a bad idea! Exposure to loud noise can further damage hearing.

I understand what the author is thinking — if you’re hearing impaired, louder will be more audible. But it will also cause further hearing damage.

Hearing aids don’t blast high-volume audio into a patient’s ears. Instead, they use various digital signal processing tools to produce more audible audio.

The upper limit of a high-quality hearing aid may be 113 dB; however, this is the peak, not a sustained audio level. Intended for use in the real world, hearing aids must provide loud levels for loud sounds. But they don’t work simply by amplifying sounds. If you’re hearing impaired, turning off Reduce Loud Sounds and blasting loud music into your ears for hours daily, will likely degrade your hearing.

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