Smartphone Sound Level Meter Apps Help Protect Hearing

Ever since I got a sound level meter app for my Android phone, I am a lot more confident with decisions regarding sound exposures for my already damaged ears. A click of the button lets me know at once whether I am headed into an overly loud, ear-unfriendly place. And I want to avoid more noise-induced hearing loss at all costs!

A useful hearing safety tool

It turns out that some noise levels that I did not perceive as problematic actually were. Obviously, hearing loss has dulled my “sound” judgment over the years. And so, my smartphone sound level meter app has become a useful safety tool for me. It helps protect the hearing that I have left by providing noise level readings that are a lot more realistic than my own flawed guesses are. Yet, I do not expect it to be of industry-type accuracy.

The numbers displayed on the screen reflect the ambient decibel levels or sound volume. In the workplace hearing protection must be used once noise levels reach an average of 85 decibels or dBs. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls this the Action Level. However, 85 dBs are already quite loud. It’s like working at 3 to 5 feet from a gasoline-powered snow blower.

85 decibels refer to an average sound level. This means that there are peaks above and dips below 85. As people should not linger at the higher levels, specialists often recommend that hearing protection should be used once sound levels climb into the mid-70 dB range.

Match smartphone with app

Smartphone sound level meter apps must be supported by phone platforms, such as iOS or Android OS. Apple products, like iPhone or iPad require iOS-compatible apps. These can be found in the Apple Store.  Android products require Android OS-compatible apps, which are listed on Google Play.

Many of these apps can be downloaded free of charge but read the details. They are mostly for private or casual use. Although very helpful, they are not as tightly calibrated as industry apps or sound measuring devices are. Some customer reviews may reflect this criticism. That said, NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has a free iOS-supported sound level meter app. It is recognized as accurate and validated and can be downloaded by iOS users.

Well worth a closer look

In the interest of preserving our hearing, smartphone sound level meter apps are well worth investigating. As always, read the specifications. Know the key features, functions and limits. Is the display easy to read? Is there a user charge? Follow the instructions for use and calibration, if any.

I am happy with my decision to accept the help of modern technology. I heed the app’s readings and never leave home without earplugs. While it is still true that yelling over noise is a danger sign and that anything “power” (power tools, power machinery etc.) calls for hearing protection, my sound level meter app takes much of the guesswork out of “loudness” perceptions.  And that is a good thing.