by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
You are in a noisy venue and say to yourself, “Wow! It sure is noisy in here. I wonder just how loud it really is?”
Few people own sound level meters to measure the volume of sounds around them, but wait—you have a smart phone don’t you? With the right app, you can use your smart phone as a fairly-accurate sound level meter.
Here are three good apps (1)—two for your iPhone and one for your ‘Droid so you can get a good idea of the volume of the racket that is assaulting your ears.
Now that you have measured the sound level around you, look at the result. The magic number you want is 80 dB. If it is below 80 dB, then all is well. However, if it is greater than 80 dB, if you’re smart, you will take steps to protect your precious hearing. This may mean limiting the time your ears are exposed to sounds louder than 80 dB, or wearing ear protectors.
To know how long you can expose your ears to louder sounds without permanent hearing loss, see my article, “What Are Safe Sound Levels?” Remember, these times and sound levels are for the theoretical “average” ears. Your ears may be more or less robust than the theoretical average—but it is a good place to start.
One more thing—when you leave a loud venue, if you notice that sounds are now somewhat muffled and/or that your ears are ringing, you know that you overdid it. You need to be more careful in the future.