Being told to watch out for loud music may bring out the teenager in you. The Man just wants to ruin some harmless fun by worrying over an almost inconceivable possibility, right?
Unfortunately, permanent damage to your hearing isn’t that inconceivable, especially as audio technology continues to improve. It has only gotten louder and more effective at creating a seal around your ears. Health Canada has a brief but comprehensive page outlining the risks of listening to loud media for extended periods of time, particularly with headphones.
In the European Union there are safety standards for audio/video equipment known as the IEC 62368-1. Catchy name, I know. Canada’s safety requirements are separate, but based on the IEC 62368-1. Thanks to the recommendations in these documents, Android has a loud noise warning if you have headphones connected (wireless or Bluetooth) and try to raise the volume above 85 dB.
The safety standards and recommendations get updated over time, so Android has to keep up, too. Android 14, the newest version of Google’s mobile OS, will release in a matter of weeks and bring with it a brand new volume warning system.
It was brought to light by Mishaal Rahman on X (Twitter).
Android 14 is adding a new safety feature to protect your hearing: Headphone loud sound alert.
Android will alert you if you've been listening to audio at a volume above the recommended level for long periods over your headphones. You can keep listening or lower the volume. pic.twitter.com/klU0VyjZXx
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) May 11, 2023
The feature he outlines is separate from the warning given when you try to increase the volume. This new feature keeps track of how long you’ve been listening to something at an unsafe volume, then warns you when an unsafe amount of time has passed. That time is based on the IEC recommendations for safe listening in dB per week.
Android will keep a 7-day record of the volume of what you’ve listened to, and you’ll progress through stages. Each time you listen for too long in a given stage, it will automatically lower your volume and send a warning message. When you hit the fifth and final stage, the warning for listening too long will specifically say, “headphone volume has exceeded the safe limit for this week.”
Android is adding this feature due to specific regulation changes in the EU’s safety guidelines. If you buy a phone in Europe, it will be automatically turned on. For others, it can be manually enabled. It’s unclear at this time whether the feature will be automatically enabled in Canada, since our safety guidelines are based on the EU ones; it may be an update to regulations that the EU has made but Canada has not yet.
As we mentioned, you can expect Android 14 in the next few weeks. However, at the time of this writing, no specific release date has been given for Android 14.