Best apps to protect you and your ears

Almost everyone has a personal stereo of some sort these days as pretty much all of us are carrying round mobile phones. On the one hand, this is absolutely brilliant but, on the other, it breaks our hearts when we see and hear all those people not only still using the headphones that came free in the box but also playing them so loud that they must be doing serious damage to their hearing as well as ruining the quality of the music they're playing as well.

The first thing to do when you buy one of these things is to get yourself a decent pair of 'phones. But, the second, and just as is important, is to take a look at a few applications that'll make sure you're picking out the sweeps of the treble just as keenly as the booms of the bass from now until you're picking up your pension. So, here are the best apps to protect you and your ears.

Awareness

Platorm
iOS
Price
£2.99

We all know what it is to get lost in the music and there are enough examples in the local papers of accidents happening while people are on their bikes or walking about with their headphones in. Awareness is the safety measure app for this situation which works by allowing a certain amount of the ambient environment sound to bleed into your music, so that you can hear any sounds of danger that perhaps you ought. It works by using the iPhone's microphone to pick up the noise and you can set the level so that only sounds above a certain decibel will come into your music. That way, someone's chatter on the tube can be blocked out but a car horn beeping because it's about to hit you will still give you the warning you need. It may cost a little money but it obviously saves lives.

 

deciBel

Platform
Android

Price
free


One way of protecting your ears from a noisy environment is by checking that the sound levels around you aren’t too dangerous in the first place and, to do that, you’re going to need an app to measure it. There’s plenty around on all sorts of platforms but the pick of the crop for us is deciBel on Android. What’s nice about this one is that not only does it give you the db readings, including the peaks and minimums, but it also gives you a graph of the noise over time. Given that ear damage is a factor of how loud and for how long as well, it’s the app that’ll serve you best.

 

TooLoud?

Platform
iOS

Price
free


There’s quite a selection of sound measuring apps on the iPhone platform but the reason TooLoud? is one to go for is because it doesn’t require you to know anything about decibels at all. Yes, it gives you average, peak and current readings, and even a graph as well but what it will also do is actually let you know if your environment is too loud with a message on the screen to tell you that you shouldn’t be there without knowing that there’s a good chance you could damage your hearing. The other reason to download it, of course, is that it’s free.

 

 

 

Volume Control

Platform
iOS

Price
£0.59


With just 16 default volume settings on the iPhone, it’s very easy to get caught in between one that’s too quiet and one that’s probably a little too loud than is good for you. Step up Volume Control, an app that provides a more analogue approach to a volume knob. Instead of just 16, you now get 100 separate volume increments to select so that you can get the perfect amplitude for your ears. As it happens, Volume Control doesn’t just stop there. It also gives you a decibel reading for each ear as well as acting as a place where you can skip tracks, pause and even mute the music as well.

 

Volumatic

Platform
iOS

Price
free


Sound isolating headphones with custom moulds are obviously the best way to go with personal audio but, even then, there are certain noisy environments that still manage to creep through. On you journey, commute or wherever you’re headed while your listening to your tunes, it gets a little tedious having to fiddle with the volume control on your media player to try to match its output with the sound going on around you. Instead, you can download a free app called Volumatic which automatically alters the volume on your iPhone by matching it against the sound reading it gets on the handset’s microphone. You can also put it in Office Mode where the volume will automatically mute as soon as a loud sound is picked up. That way, if someone’s trying to speak to you, you’ll be able to hear them even if you’re got your headphones in.

 

 

Audio Wall

Platform
Android

Price
free


The Android platform also has its own version of an app that adjusts the volume of your handset in order to match the ambient sound. Audio Wall is as solid as it sounds and has even got a few preset tracks if you’d rather not use your MP3s. Instead, it will play "summer beach waves" or "rain fall and storm" while you’re trying to block out whatever whining is going on in the background. What would be really great is if there was a muzak setting so that you could have the Girl From Ipanema going while you stare sweetly at some person droning away in tones that you no longer have to listen to.

 

Hark

Platform
Android

Price
free


Of course, while you’re doing all you can to protect your ears, it would also be advisable to check them every now and them to make sure they’re in good working order. Naturally, there’s a few apps for that, including the rather scarey iAgeFree which is best avoided. The one we liked best is Hark on Android which pretty much replicated the same test you would get for your ears were you to go to an audiologist. The app plays various tones to you of differing pitches and volumes and you have to hit the button as quick as you can to indicate that you heard it. After a few minutes of testing, you get your results back with all sorts of graphical analysis of where your ears hear best, where they’re dropping off and just how normal you are.

 

Soundbest Player

Platform
Android

Price
free


Another one on Android, Soundbest Player starts from a similar stand point as Hark but with a slightly different motive. It begins by giving you a slightly less rigorous hearing test to plumb the depths of your frequency range in each each. Once it’s worked you out, it then provides a customised graphic equaliser for all your audio on your phone to make sure that each pitch is optimised for your hearing. What that means in terms of your protection is that you’re not going to just blanket blast your ears in the areas where you going to be sensitive in order to be able to get a proper hold on the frequencies where you’re not. It should also make your music sound better.

 

 

Noise Canceller

Platform
Android

Price
free


A slightly different approach to protecting your ears is tackled with Noise Canceller. Rathen than warning you about the ambient sound, it attempts to block it from going into you ears in the fisrt place. The way it works is by analysising the noise with the handset’s microphone and then creating an phase-inverted wave of said noise to play down your headphones and cancel out the background. Due to a great deal of sampling going on, it’s very easy for the output to have some delay but fortuntely there are some fine-tuning controls in order to try and get it right.

 

Volume Limit

Platform
iOS

Price
free


This isn’t something you have to pay for, or even download from the App Store. Volume Limit is a switch in the Settings section of your iPhone or iPod and it’s probably the best one for Apple to make sure that your ears are protected. Very simply, what it does is allow you to set an upper limit for the volume output of the media player and even put a 4-digit code on it to keep it fixed. As a result, it won’t let the music blast out your ear drums and makes a really good way for parents to get a little piece of mind that their little ones won’t accidentally cause themselves harm. Well worth using if only to stop yourself getting an earful of maxed out volume at the touch of the wrong button.

For more on how to protect your ears and some recommended headphones that'll help do the job for you, check out Etymotic and the ER 4 MicroPro series



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