Newest smartphone apps for healthy hearing
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing | Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Life can get noisy, can’t it? As a matter of fact, life can get so noisy it’s actually bad for your health. Exposure to loud noise can interfere with your sleep, cause heart problems and permanently damage your hearing.
So — how do you know which sounds are too loud? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prolonged exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels (dB) can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus; the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports comfortable hearing levels — like those found in normal conversation — are less than 60 dB. Since professional noise meters cost anywhere between $90 and $6,500 and it’s probably not practical to carry it with you everywhere you go if you bought one anyway, download one of the following sound measurement apps instead. No smartphone application is as accurate as a professional noise meter; however, the ones we’ve listed can give you a good approximate value of the noise levels in your environment.
Personal electronics devices can be dangerous to your hearing.
What experts have to say about smart phone app sound meters
In 2014, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a pilot study to determine which smart phone apps were the most reliable. The resulting paper, Evaluation of smartphone sound measurement applications, was published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. Of the 130 iOS and 62 Android apps they examined, NIOSH found the following four iOS apps to be the most reliable in measuring occupational sound levels.
iPhone and iPad
Last updated: May 2016
Features for this smartphone application include a visible alert when an environment can cause hearing damage, safety screening of appliances, power tools and sound-emitting children’s toys, and calibration for home theaters and speakers.
Last updated: February 2016
This sound meter app is recommended by the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. An exposure scale ranks the level of noise from “quiet” and “comfortable” as green displays to “extremely noisy” and “intolerable” as red displays.
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Choose between two modes, Sound Level Meter or Noise at Work, each with three different views. The spectrum view displays a bar graph of the sound level, the history view displays a one minute time log of the sound measurement, and parameter offers a view of all of the statistics of the current measurement.
Last updated: December 2011
A key feature of this app is the avatar which acts as a virtual sound advisor on the phone’s display and classifies the level of health hazard. Specific noise can be evaluated in dB(A), dB(C) and dB(SPL). Other programs allow you to measure the amount of noise you are permanently exposed to and evaluate the level of background noise.
Other consumer rated sound meter apps
So what if you’re an average Joe who is only interested in getting an approximate measurement of the noise levels in everyday life — is there an app for that? The following iOS apps with a consumer rating of 4+ might be just what you’re looking for.
Note: These apps are designed to give approximate values and are not intended to provide professional-grade sound measurement.
Last updated: October 2013
Individuals interested in approximating the level of noise in their environment will find this app easy to use. Noise levels from 0-110 decibels are arranged graphically on a color-coded meter ranging from green (safe) to red (dangerous). Also includes a guide on how to prevent noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Last updated: March 2013
This is another easy app for measuring levels of sound in your everyday routine. The thermometer-type display registers sound on a vertical meter from 0-120 decibels, using color-coded bars to indicate the level of safety.
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Last updated: April 2016
Target-style displays in this app color code noise levels and alert you when you need to use hearing protection. You can apply filters to reduce the influence of background noise to provide a more accurate reading.
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch
Last updated: June 2016
Features of this app allow you to measure sound in real time, as well as summarize and save the measurements.
Apps to help prevent hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common type of hearing loss and, fortunately, also the most preventable. The key is to monitor the sound levels and avoid dangerous environments whenever possible.
According to the World Health Organization, 43 million people between the ages of 12 and 35 have hearing loss, half of which is caused by unsafe sound levels emitted from their personal electronic devices.
LimitEar, a technology company which develops hearing dose management technologies for professional headphone users, has developed a smartphone app to address this problem. Hear Angel® tracks the level and duration of what users listen to on their PEDs and prevents them from listening at unsafe levels. Parents can use the app to manage their children’s listening habits and make sure their noise exposure doesn’t exceed health guidelines. A Daily Sound Tracker allows you to monitor and review duration, volume and type of music you’ve listened to. While not yet available for download, those who are interested in purchasing the app can pre-order on the company’s website.
When used in conjunction with annual hearing evaluations from a hearing health professional, smartphone sound measurement apps can be useful tools in monitoring your environment and preventing hearing loss from unhealthy noise levels.
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