dB Measuring

dB Measuring

A few months ago I bought a sound level meter. 

I have yet to take it out of the house, because to do so would lead to at least two things: firstly, people would probably start avoiding me on the streets as I mutter at my orange machine;  secondly, I would probably start muttering obscenities at my orange machine and then at the sources of the high sound levels. BUT – perhaps I could do it if I also wore  my ear plugs.  (Great – or I could get a pair of industrial ear protectors and REALLY take on the role of “Noise Curmudgeon”!)

However –  If anyone reading this blogs wants to start testing the noise in their world, feel free! Let me know what you find out. (Currently my office here at home clocks in at around 48dbs, which is fine by me.)

There are all sorts of decibel readers available.  I got mine through eBay for about $40.00  But there are industrial grade ones used by corporations and government bodies which seem to cost in the low thousands. –  see bookmarked  blogs

One of the places where these meters are important is in workplaces, especially industrial workplaces. (Imagine the noise levels in a steel mill, or pulp mill.) Long term exposure to noise leads to NIHL – noise induced hearing loss. To learn about what happens to your ears and your hearing, here is a link to a useful Wiki site.

In Canada, and in most countries, there is legislation regarding how much noise workers can be exposed to.  Here is a link to information from the Canadian government. In Canada, and in the USA, you are not supposed to be exposed to more than 87 dBA in an eight hour period. However, it is my understanding that these regulations are not strictly enforced, which is why unions and their health and safety committees can play an important role in helping workers push employers to follow these regulations. Here is a link to information from a union organization in Tasmania. And here is a link to CUPE’s site about workplace noise. (And this link gives a good explanation of exposure and dB levels and Hz levels.  Drawing on OSHA guidelines, they make it very clear:

“Habitual exposure to noise above 85 dB will cause a gradual hearing loss in a significant number of individuals, and louder noises will accelerate this damage. For unprotected ears, the allowed exposure time decreases by ONE HALF FOR EACH 5 dB INCREASE in the average noise level. For instance, exposure is limited to 8 hr at 90 dB, 4 hr at 95 dB, and 2 hr at 100 dB. The highest permissible noise exposure for the UNPROTECTED ear is 115 dB for 15 MINUTES/day. Any noise above 140 dB IS NOT PERMITTED.”

Here is an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training video about workplace noise. OSHA regulations do have some teeth in them.  Here is a link to a news story about a lumber mill in West Virginia being fined for violations. And here is an article about a study that suggests that many industrial workers in the USA are not aware that their hearing is impaired.

So if you work somewhere noisy, find out how noisy it is by measuring the noise levels with a sound level meter, and use these regulations to get your employer to change the situation.

An interesting tidbit: Some companies have identified a market for machines that are quieter. Here is an article about the BT Lifter Silent being used in a retail site so that the loading of trucks is a quieter process.


Of course, work is NOT the only place where we are exposed to noise. Here is a video of a short news story about noise induced hearing loss.

If you have a mobile device like an iPhone, or iPod, or iPad or an android, etc.,  you can get an app for measuring dB levels.  (I am not selling these but here is where you can get such apps for an iPhone, android, etc. – http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/spl-meter/id309206756?mt=8

Or –   http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/decibel-meter-pro/id382776256?mt=8

By the way – if you have an older iPod Touch like I do, you will need a microphone for these apps to work. There are several quite cheap mics that just plug into the headphone jack.  Mine cost me about $3.00 and works just fine.

Did you watch the video of the news story referred to above?  Do you want to see more videos that show how loud the things around us are?  Here are a few video links to ponder:

Using meter on a car –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBUNVse-yGI

Using a meter on a tractor   – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QosVlcv8LHk

Using a meter on a Subaru car –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCmaK0qdKzk

Using a meter on a bag of Sun Chips!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWzQJfjAyP0

Here is a video of someone who uses his meter to select his hotel rooms when he travels – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcNG6w5-UyI


Here is something very interesting. This is a video from NoiseTube, an organization in France which is promoting an app for GPS equipped phones so that people can add data to a data bank of noise pollution to NoiseTube. And here is the URL for NoiseTube.

Here is a video aimed at kids to get them thinking about noise induced hearing loss.


I will leave you with this little video link to follow: let your kids see this one too!

(By the way –  I didn’t get to the corner of Bayview and Princess to see if the air raid siren was still there.  But I did Google Map it – and from what I can see of that corner, there is NO air raid siren!)

And one last note:  apparently Hyde Park in England shut down Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney because they had gone over the curfew deadline for their concert! Here is a link to the story.


And a last, last note, so to speak: my wife and I had left our home and town to avoid the 20 hours of live music  coming from the local RibFest which is located across the river from our house. The music booms into our house at a volume level louder than we would play music INSIDE the house!  When we got home today at 4:47 pm, the music  was, as we expected, booming away. But – right at 5 pm, the deadline, it was over!  Congratulations to the organizers.  I will be sending an email of thanks and congrats ASAP!!

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1 Response to dB Measuring

  1. andramccartney says:

    When you are talking about sound level measurement, are you always using dBA? It is a big flaw in the laws that this profile completely cuts out low frequency noise (ie diesel engines). The laws should really be based on dBC…

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