With the announcement of iOS 15, Apple is not only bringing new changes to FaceTime, Spotlight, Notifications, Weather, Safari, Find My, and Photos but is also paying a ton of attention to accessibility features on your iPhone and iPad. To help people avoid getting distracted, overwhelmed, or discomforted by what’s going on around them, Apple is introducing a new accessibility feature – Background Sounds.
What is Background Sounds on iOS?
To help minimize distractions and give its users a better way to focus on work, Apple has introduced Background Sounds on iOS 15. The feature comes as a move to support neurodiversity that is all the differences in an individual’s brain functions. With Background Sounds, your iPhone will be able to play calm soothing sounds like ocean, rain, or stream so that you can rest, gather your calm, and focus on the task at hand.
Apple says the inbuilt collection of background sounds should help overpower unwanted external noise or environmental sounds around you. The feature is designed to also work with other audio and system sounds on your iOS device. This way, you can listen to Balanced, bright, dark, or natural noise even when you’re playing music or watching videos on your iPhone in a way that comforts you.
What do you need to use Background Sounds on iOS?
Background Sounds is an exclusive accessibility feature that only works if your device is running iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. At the moment, iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 are only available as a developer beta for select iPhones and iPads. If you wish to install iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 on your primary device, we’d advise against doing that as you may encounter bugs and issues in these early developmental builds.
If you’re unsure which version of iOS or iPadOS your device runs on, you can check that by opening the Settings app and going to Settings > General > About > Software Version.
How to Enable Background Sounds on iOS
Since ‘Background Sounds’ is one of the new accessibility features, you can find it inside your iPhone’s Accessibility screen.
To activate Background Sounds on iOS 15, open the Settings app on your iPhone/iPad and select the ‘Accessibility’ option.
Inside Accessibility, scroll down and tap on the ‘Audio/Visual’ option under ‘Hearing’.
On the next screen, select the ‘Background Sounds’ option.
Inside this screen, toggle ON the switch adjacent to ‘Background Sounds’.
When you enable this feature, you should start hearing some kind of background noise from your device’s speakers or your headphones (if they’re connected to the iPhone/iPad).
How to Use Background Sounds on iOS
Once you’ve enabled Background Sounds, you can tweak its settings to personalize it in a way that comforts you. You can select any one of the preset sounds that are available to mix them with other external sounds or completely mask the latter by increasing the volume of background noise. You can follow the steps below to get that done.
Change Background Sounds
iOS allows you to choose between six different background sounds for now. We expect more to arrive in the future considering there are more options Apple provides on HomePod devices as part of their ‘Ambient Sounds’ feature.
You can select and change soundscapes by accessing Background Sounds inside Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Background Sounds.
Inside Background Sounds, tap on the ‘Sound’ section.
You will be taken to a list of sounds that are available currently on the next screen. You can choose any one of the following ambient sounds – Balanced Noise, Bright Noice, Dark Noise, Ocean, Rain, and Stream.
Play each of the sounds and then decide on the one that suits your comfort.
By default, the Background Sounds volume is set at 10. You can increase/decrease the volume depending on how much you want these sounds to overpower your surroundings. You may also want to change the volume when using a headphone as external sounds will get significantly muted, meaning you will have to bring the volume of Background Sounds down when your earphones are plugged in.
Enable Background Sounds when playing media
You can choose to keep Background Sounds running when you’re listening to music or watching a video on your device. By default, the Background Sounds will stop when media is playing on your iPhone/iPad. You can, however, enable it to play in parallel with your media and other apps if you wish to continue listening to the ambient sounds.
You can enable this feature by first accessing the ‘Background Sounds’ screen inside Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Background Sounds.
Inside Background Sounds, toggle ON the ‘Use When Media Is Playing’ switch so that the background sounds work in parallel with sounds from other apps.
You get separate volume slides for when Background Sounds are played with media and you can increase or increase the volume by dragging the slides towards left or right.
To help you understand how much intense you want the Background Sounds to be, iOS lets you play sample music to help you decide the volume that would suit you.
How to Add ‘Background Sounds’ shortcut inside Control Centre
While Background Sounds is a brilliant feature for those of us struggling to concentrate or relax, you may find it hard to access or change sounds or volume every now and then because it is concealed inside your iPhone’s Accessibility settings. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to access it – by adding a quick shortcut to the Control Centre.
To enable a shortcut for ‘Background Sounds’ inside Control Centre, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and select ‘Control Centre’.
Inside the ‘Control Centre’, scroll down and find the ‘Hearing’ option (the one with an ear icon) under ‘More Controls’. You will need to add this control to your Control Centre by tapping the ‘+’ button on the left side of the ‘Hearing’ option.
When you do that, the ‘Hearing’ control will be added to the ‘Included Controls’ section at the top.
You have successfully added a shortcut to ‘Background Sounds’ inside Control Centre.
How to Use Background Sounds from Control Centre
Now that you have added a shortcut to ‘Background Sounds’ inside Control Centre, you should know how you may use the feature on iOS or iPadOS.
For this, open the Control Centre on your device by following any of these steps.
- On iPhones without Home Button: Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen.
- On iPhones with a Home Button: Swipe up from the bottom edge of any screen.
- On iPads: Swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen.
Since you added the ‘Hearing’ control to the Control Centre, you should be able to see it when the Control Centre appears. The Hearing control will be indicated by a tile with an ear. To access Background Sounds, tap on the Hearing control from the Control Centre.
You will now be able to check if ‘Background Sounds’ is running on your device. If the feature is disabled, you should see it marked as OFF under the ‘Background Sounds’ section in the overflow menu and also on the ‘Background Sounds’ button at the bottom.
You can turn ON Background Sounds from here by tapping the ‘Background Sounds’ button. When it is enabled, the button would turn from dark grey to blue color. You can tap on the same button to disable the feature quickly.
You should also be able to see what is being played as ambient sound and its volume levels in the overflow menu at the center of the screen. From here you can directly change the volume levels of the sounds by dragging the slider inside ‘Volume’.
You can quickly select sounds you may want to apply for a particular time by tapping on the ‘Background Sounds’ section inside this overflow menu and then selecting your preferred option on the next screen.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know about Background Sounds on iOS 15.