How to Listen to Background Sounds on iPhone

One of the upgrades to Accessibility in iOS and iPadOS 15 is a new Background Sounds feature that plays relaxing audio tracks to help you stay calm and focused, and to block out background distractions.

RAYMOND OGLESBY @RaymondOglesby2
September 1, 2021

One of the upgrades to Accessibility in iOS and iPadOS 15 is a new Background Sounds feature that plays relaxing audio tracks to help you stay calm and focused, and to block out background distractions.

This is for iPhone and iPad

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What Are Background Sounds

Background Sounds are like having a sound machine from your bedroom in your iPhone and iPad. The sounds can also be played over Bluetooth to external devices.

With thenew Background Sounds feature, you can play balanced, bright, and dark noise, as well as ocean, rain, and stream sounds to help you concentrate and relax when using your iPhone or iPad.

The feature may negate the need to purchase or subscribe to third-party background noise apps. Its not a dedicated app, but rather hidden away inside your device’s Accessibility settings.

It’s worth noting that at the current time, there is no way to load your own background sound. Note as well that they do not have a time limit. They will only turn off when you disable them. This is a glaring omission by Microsoft. I would like to turn on sound at night as I fall asleep and have it automatically turn off at a certain time. Anyway. let’s explore how to use this feature.

Background Sounds in Accessibility

Apple sees Background Sounds as a way to diversify its array of accessibility features by being more inclusive.

The company says in its official announcement of the feature that it targets “support of neurodiversity” and aims to mitigate “distracting, discomforting, or overwhelming” everyday noises. In other words, the feature can help you focus and relax during the day and mitigate distracting sounds that are bothering you.

That being said, the feature has the ability to appeal to many different people, so it’s interesting that Apple decided to stick with the accessibility angle instead of a more generalized approach.

Enable Background Sounds

First, open the Settings app. Refer to below image:

Sounds 1
Accessing Settings app

Next, scroll down and tap Accessibility. See below image:

Sounds 2
Accessing Accessibility option

Now, under the Hearing section, tap Audio/Visual. See following image:

Sounds 3
Accessing Audio/Visual option

Next, tap Background Sounds. Refer to below image:

Sounds 4
Accessing Background Sounds option

Now, you can toggle Background Sounds On and Off and choose which sound you would like. You can also adjust the volume of the sound as it plays over other media. If you do not want the background sound to play while, for example, listening to music, uncheck Use When Media Is Playing. See below image.

Sounds 5
Selecting your sound

You are ready to listen to relaxing, distraction-free sound from your iPhone or iPad. If you want other particular sounds, consider trying out a third-party white noise app.

Quote For the Day

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How to Use Sound Recognition on iPhone in iOS 14

Sound Recognition, first introduced in iOS 14, lets iPhone users with hearing loss receive visual alerts when the iPhone detects certain sounds like smoke alarms, sirens, door knocks, or dogs barking.

Sound Recognition, first introduced in iOS 14, lets iPhone users with hearing loss receive visual alerts when the iPhone detects certain sounds like smoke alarms, sirens, door knocks, or dogs barking. It does this with onboard intelligence, so no network connection is required. Let’s explore how to setup and use this feature.

This is for the iPhone running iOS 14+

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Setup Sound Recognition

First, launch Settings (the gear icon). Refer to below image:

Sound 1
Accessing Settings

in Settings, scroll down and tap Accessibility. See below image:

Sound 2
Accessing Accessibility

In Accessibility, navigate to the Hearing section. Now, tap Sound Recognition. See following image:

Sound 3
Accessing Sound Recognition

Enabling Sounds

In Sound Recognition settings, tap the switch beside Sound Recognition to turn it on. Next, tap Sounds below that to choose which sounds to recognize. Refer to below image:

Sound 4
Enabling Sound Recognition

Siri is Disabled

Once you enable a Sound, a message will be displayed about Siri being disabled if you Turn On Sound Recognition, or you may Cancel. See below image:

Sound 5
Hey Siri message if a Sound is enabled

Now, you will see a list of switches that correspond to types of sound your iPhone can recognize, such as sirens and water running. As of iOS 14, here’s the full list:

  • Fire Alarm
  • Siren
  • Smoke Alarm
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Appliances
  • Car Horn
  • Door Bell
  • Door Knock
  • Water Running
  • Baby Crying

Tap the switch beside each sound that you would like for your iPhone to recognize. You can enable any combination of them, or all of them. See following image where I enabled Fire, Smoke, and Dog:

Sound 6
Enabling Sounds

Now, to save your selection(s), press the Back link in upper left-hand corner, then exit Settings.

The Notifications

If you wouldd like to test the Sound Recognition feature, try searching for sounds like “Smoke Alarm” or “Dog Barking” on YouTube. When triggered, Sound Recognition will place an alert notification at the top of your screen. Later, you can see a list of these alerts in your iPhone’s Notification Center. Refer to below image:

Sound 7
Sound Recognition notifications

If you wish to activate other sounds or disable them, navigate back to the Sounds in the Sound Recognition screen. Also, you could create a shortcut in the Control Center to activate/deactivate the Sounds.

A Viewpoint

I usually don’t comment on what Apple engineers intended to do or how a feature is to work. This feature does work as advertised. But, if my house was on fire and the alarm goes off, I want my iPhone to blast our a fire alarm sound. What good is a notification alert; yikes, my house is burning! I don’t have time to grab my iPhone and launch the Notification Center. To me, this is a flaw.

While sleeping, I would like for my iPhone to blast out the sound of a fire or smoke alarm and call 911. Other sounds you might wnat to hear through your iPhone is Baby Crying and Water Running. For these reasons, this is a poorly designed feature.

At the same time,I realize that Apple wants no liability claims for missing sounds, like smoke or fire. They chose not to use the iPhone as an alarm in Sound Recognition.

That’s it. Please feel free to share this post! One way to share is via Twitter.

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Check out TechSavvy.Life for blog posts on smartphones, PCs, and Macs! Feel free to email us at contact@techsavvy.life.

I Would Like to Hear From You

Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love hearing from you. Do you have a computer or smart device tech question? I will do my best to answer your inquiry. Just send an email to contact@techsavvy.life. Please mention the device, app and version that you are using. To help us out, you can send screenshots of your data related to your question.

The author’s Vietnam eBook on the Battle for Tra Bong: Events and Aftermath