A new smartphone app designed to measure workplace noise levels helps workers monitor their exposures to potentially damaging levels of noise, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which released the app, said.
The NIOSH Sound Level Meter application, available for iOS (Apple) devices, can help reduce the rate of occupational noise-induce hearing loss if workers with compatible smartphones and other electronic devices use the app.
According to NIOSH, the app provides a readout of the sound level using either the built-in microphone or an attached microphone and reports the instantaneous sound level in the workplace accounting for total time of the recording, the maximum level reached during the run time, and several other variables that the user can adjust in the app’s settings.
In addition to raising awareness among workers about the noise in their workplace, the NIOSH app will also help workers make informed decisions about the potential hazards to the hearing. The easy-to-use app collects noise exposure data from users and feeds that information to researchers for ongoing and future studies of workplace noise and its impact on hearing.
NIOSH estimates that 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to dangerously high noise levels every year. Not only does hearing loss diminish a worker’s quality of life, but it “carries a high economic price to society,” NIOSH said, in the form of lost work, disability, productivity decline, and medical costs.
“During our studies, we realized that most of the apps on the market are oriented at the casual user and lack the accuracy and functionality necessary to conduct occupational and general purpose noise measurements,” NIOSH said in a statement.
The agency said it collaborated with app developer EA LAB to create the iOS-based sound level meter that measures and characterizes occupational noise.
NIOSH said it developed the app for iOS devices because they share hardware and software platforms that are optimized for audio applications, whereas “the Android device marketplace is fragmented among many manufacturers with different requirements and specifications for microphones, audio/signal processing chips, and software tools,” NIOSH explained, adding that it is unequipped to test the accuracy and functionality among several different Android devices and software.