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How can I tell when it's too loud?

Published: 6/27/2023 12:23:11 AM

Curious to find out how loud how your activities really are? Find out by using a smartphone app. 
But beware! Not all noise apps are created equal! Here are a few apps that have been scientifically tested1 so you can use them with confidence when you’re out and about: 
NoiSee has a sleek design that shows you the sound level and indicates how long you can stay in the environment until you reach your daily sound dose. If you want to get really technical, you can use an external calibrated microphone to make your measurements but most people will do just fine using the app as is. 
The NIOSH Sound Level Meter comes from the noise experts in the US – NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). It’s not the prettiest app but it’s simple, easy-to-use interface shows your noise dose and provides information on what noises can cause hearing loss, how to prevent hearing loss, and how to select hearing protection devices. 
SPLnFFT will set you back $US3.99. It measures sound level and lets you know if you’re exceeding your daily dose limit. Don’t be put off by the extra acoustic metrics on offer – these are handy if you’re after more detailed information about your sound sources, but if you stick to the Scale screen you’ll have all the information you need to decide whether to stay or go! 
Decibel X is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store (although we recommend the iOS version1). This app has a classy interface and users can choose between three different themes. As well as measuring the sound level, the app has several  optional extras - you can make a recording of the sound, add a photo, and save your data. 
If you own an Apple Watch, check out the Noise app which measures the sound levels in your environment and lets you know when the volume gets to a level that can impact on your hearing. Match it up with the Health app on your iPhone and you can track your history of sound exposure and monitor your hearing health.  

1 Kardous, C. A., & Shaw, P. B. (2014). Evaluation of smartphone sound measurement applications. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America135(4), EL186-EL192; Kardous, C. A., & Shaw, P. B. (2016). Evaluation of smartphone sound measurement applications (apps) using external microphones—A follow-up study. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America140(4), EL327-EL333. 

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