Your Old Apple AirPods Just Got Better

Apple AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

Apple’s hearing health features might not be the most exciting aspect of the company’s range of smartwatches and headphones, but they can play a big role in protecting your hearing over the long-term. One of the key features available has just been added to the older Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones via the watchOS 9.2 software update.

After this update you will be able to see how much external noise is being filtered out by the original AirPods Pro and AirPods Max headphones when using their active noise cancellation or transparency modes.

Apple Watch Ultra showing noise levels

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

This feature was available on the Apple AirPods Pro 2 at launch so it’s good to see it rolled out to the older headphones in the range. When using the headphones you can see what the external noise levels have been reduced to in the Noise app on the Apple Watch – a reduction in external sound that can be important in protecting your long-term hearing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommendations on how much noise you should be exposed to throughout the week. For example, you shouldn’t be exposed to more than 80 decibels, which is the level you might experience in a noisy restaurant, for more than 40 hours each week. 

Apple Watch showing noise levels

(Image credit: Apple)

The time limits drop with higher decibel levels – WHO recommends a maximum of four hours of exposure to 90 decibels in a week, or 24 minutes to 100 decibels. You can monitor the external sound levels live with the Noise app on the Apple Watch, and track your long-term exposure in the Health app and see if you’re exceeding the recommended limits, something that can damage your hearing.

Apple launched a hearing study in partnership with WHO and the University of Michigan in 2019 and it has found that 25% of participants were exceeding the daily recommended noise levels.

Along with monitoring sound levels, Apple’s hearing health features include notifications when your headphones are too loud. You can also set up notifications on the Apple Watch for when external sounds exceed a certain decibel level. 

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.