According to recommendations by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), working in an environment of 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours will expose you to the maximum allowed daily dose of sound. How loud is 85 db? It’s quieter than most kitchen blenders. And for every 3 dB that the sound is louder, your exposure limit is cut in half. In other words, you should only work four hours a day in a setting with 88 dB.
We tend to acclimate quickly to our surroundings, so we may not always be aware of just how noisy our environment might be. NIOSH did a study of some of the available smartphone apps that measure sound levels, and found that they were pretty accurate. NIOSH then worked with a developer to create their own sound meter app, which is more accurate and easily customizable. It even has a provision for calibrating the results. The app is only available for iOS devices at this point, but you can download it for free.
NIOSH is careful to point out that this app does not claim to match the precision of commercial sound meters, but rather that this gives individuals an easy way to monitor sound levels in their settings. As more people become aware of the long-term effect of loud noises on our hearing, apps like this could help us make better choices about how we protect our hearing.