New Free Smartphone App Measures Workplace Noise Levels

If you think that the noise levels at your workplace are at unsafe levels, but you aren’t sure how to measure them, a federal agency has created a new smartphone app that anybody can use.

The Sound Level Meter app was created by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health so that anybody can instantly measure the decibel levels in their place of employment.

Each year, more than 22 million US workers are exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels while at work. The new app, which utilizes the built-in microphones already found on most smartphones, measures noise levels and tells users when they are at potentially hazardous levels.

Dangers of Too Much Noise

Being exposed to high noise levels for a prolonged period of time can cause permanent hearing loss.

NIOSH’s new Sound Level Meter app can be downloaded for free at the Apple Store and uses an iOS based sound level meter that measures and characterizes occupational noise exposure just like costly, professional noise meters.

The app automatically tells users if noise levels are too high, based on a standard scale for most common workplaces based on three criteria:

  • the A-weighted equivalent sound level (LAeq)
  • The maximum Level measured during the current run time
  • The C-weighted Peak Sound Pressure Level (LCpeak)
  • And the Time-Weighted Average (TWA) and Dose.

The app also includes some basic information on noise and hearing loss prevention.

Reducing Noise Levels in the Workplace

Noise levels of about 80 decibels are enough for workers to have to raise their voices in order to be heard at a distance of one meter. Noise levels of 90 decibels are enough for workers to have to shout to be heard at a distance of one meter.

If workers are exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels, they should use hearing protection devices such as earplugs, noise-reducing earphones, or other types of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations of 2005 mandate that employers take action if daily or weekly exposure to noise exceeds Exposure Action Levels.

Whenever possible, excessive noise should be eliminated at the source by controlling exposure to noise. Besides PPE, this can include adding noise mufflers or baffles on noisy equipment.

Currently, the app is only available on iOs devices, such as Apple smartphones because they are optimized for audio applications. Android devices, which are made by multiple manufacturers, have different requirements and specifications for microphones, audio/signal procession chips, and software tools, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news release announcing the app’s release.