How to Measure Sound with a Smartphone App

How to Measure Sound with a Smartphone App

Do you know what noise levels are considered safe? While it is common knowledge that excess noise can cause hearing damage, it can be difficult to tell whether or not the noise level around you is too high. It might not seem like something you need to worry about, but health issues from excessive noise exposure are very real.

We are often exposed to unsafe levels of sound without even realizing it. Noise sources can range from workplace equipment to loud music from our speakers. And it’s not just the one-time instances we have to worry about. Repeated exposure to high noise levels can put you at serious risk for hearing loss over time.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has produced a free smartphone app that can help you avoid hearing loss or damage due to loud work environments. The NIOSH Sound Level Meter app was created to help workers stay informed about the safety of their workplace. It is available for free on the iTunes app store.

Decibel Chart

Decibel Chart

Measuring Decibel Levels

The NIOSH Sound Level Meter app takes a reading of your surroundings and tells you when the noises have reached unsafe levels. The decibel chart to to the right showcases the gradient levels. It uses the microphone that is built into your iPhone to hear the sounds and then compares them to the acceptable levels set by OSHA and NIOSH.

The app also contains basic information about sound level safety and how to avoid hearing loss due to excessive noise. The app includes a list of common sounds and their decibel levels (dB). For example, according to the app, a whisper is only 30 dB while a chain saw clocks in at 108 dB. This gives you an idea of the common sounds and hazardous noises you might encounter on an everyday basis.

The application is currently only available for iPhone, thanks to consistent hardware and software across all iOS devices. Because Android hardware and software varies from model to model, an Android version of the app is not available at this time.

Who is it for?

This app is beneficial to anyone who cares about their hearing, especially those who are sensitive to high noise levels. According to the CDC website, NIOSH estimates that over 22 million workers each year are exposed to unsafe noise levels in their workplace. Additionally, over 11% of the total adult working population has some level of hearing difficulty. Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to hearing loss as they work with loud equipment that causes damage with prolonged exposure.

The impact of hearing loss is not isolated to just the workers. It also affects their families, and, by extension, society as a whole. It is in everyone’s best interest to reduce hazardous sound decibel levels and to be aware of the noise they encounter every day.

If you work in a loud environment and want to be sure your hearing is not in danger, this app is for you.

How Does it Work?

Using the microphone in your iPhone, the NIOSH Sound Level Meter app takes a reading of the sound levels at your location. It gives you the measurement in decibels and identifies other important metrics so you can determine when the noise level is too high and poses a risk to your hearing. After a sound test is conducted, the app allows you to save a report with details of the reading, the date, and your GPS location to refer back to in the future. This is a great way to keep track of long-term noise levels on the job.

NIOSH and OSHA enforce slightly different rules for noise safety. This app allows you to check your results against both sets of regulations for thorough results. While the app does not a replace a professional sound survey, it can give you a good idea of whether such a survey would be useful at your organization.

Where Can I Use it?

Use this app in the workplace to ensure that noise levels stay within the legal parameters. It is convenient and easy to use whether you are at a construction site or in a factory. The GPS function even allows you to conduct and save reports at multiple job sites, giving you the ability to stay on top of noise levels wherever you are.

You can also use it outside of work whenever you are concerned about noise levels, such as in a room with a loud TV or at a concert. This not only helps protect your hearing, but gives you a chance to educate your family and friends about the dangers of high noise levels and ways to reduce hearing loss.

Why do I Need it?

Recognizing harmful noise levels isn’t just a matter of knowing how loud your environment is. The amount of time you are exposed to noise also plays a factor. The NIOSH app helps you identify how long you can endure a particular level of noise before it becomes detrimental to your hearing.

Sound Enclosure

Sound Enclosure

Even if the noise levels in your workplace are within acceptable levels, it will raise your awareness about what constitutes a “safe” sound level and what you should be aware of in the future.

If noise levels at your workplace turn out to be too high, have a professional survey conducted to verify the app’s findings. To remedy any issues, work with a soundproofing expert and discuss your options, such as purchasing soundproofing equipment, to ensure a safer space for all employees. You and you workers will be able to do better work for longer stretches of time if everyone is working in a hazard-free environment.

Hearing loss due to workplace noise levels is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By staying informed about how to prevent hearing damage and keeping track of noise levels in your workplace, you can be sure that everyone is safe.

For more information on hearing loss prevention, contact eNoise Control.  We can be reached at at 888.417.1903 or send us an email to We are experts in soundproofing, no matter what your needs are.