Occupational hearing loss is talked about a lot in the construction industry, but noise levels have always been difficult to quantify for the everyday worker. A company may have a professional sound level meter or noise dosimeter, but how often are they actually used? With the advancement of smartphones, the power to avoid the lasting effects of hearing loss is being given back to individuals.
The lack of available technology or general lack of concern has most likely been the major contributing factors for the 23,000 people who suffered from occupational hearing loss 2007 (the last year this data was published by NIOSH). That same year, 14% of occupational illnesses were the result of hearing loss.
For iOS users, NIOSH has just released a free new smartphone app, called NIOSH SLM, to measure sound levels on the job site. The app underwent extensive laboratory testing in order to meet the approved criteria for sound measurement, within 2dB of a type 1 sound meter). If used with a calibrated external microphone, the app has proven to work within 1dB of the type 1 sound meter. NIOSH states that the key benefits of the app are: raised worker awareness, helps workers make informed decisions about potential hazards, serves as a research tool to collect noise exposure data, and it promotes better hearing health and prevention measures.
In November of 2016, NIOSH also updated their evaluation of almost 200 different sound level meter apps available on both Android and iOS. Of the 130 iOS apps researched, only 10 passed within the testing limits. Of the 62 Android apps researched, only 4 apps passed. The study suggests that the Android apps were not nearly as reliable as the iOS apps and did not have many fo the same functions. But since NIOSH has not released an Android app themselves, users will have to choose between the four listed in the study, which are: SPL Meter by AudioControl (free), deciBel Pro by BSB Mobile Solutions ($3.60), dB Sound Meter by Darren Gates ($0.99), and Noise Meter by JINASYS (free).