Measuring Sound

Why pay someone to measure your workplace noise when you can do it yourself.. for free!

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Knowing what a decibel is would be completely useless if we can't measure it.

Here's an easy way to know when it's too loud - If you have to raise your voice to talk to another person one arm’s length away, it's too loud! That's the quickest warning signal to tell if you're in an environment that is potentially harmful to your hearing. 

Want to know exactly how loud it is? Use an app! (There's one for everything nowadays, innit?!)

We’ve tested a bunch and recommend a free and pretty accurate app called "Sound Level Analyzer" for Android, and the “NIOSH Sound Level Meter” for Apple, but there are a ton of other apps out there chock full of functionality as well. Phones are now sophisticated enough to take pretty good noise level readings (accurate to about 3dB for the most part), and since we carry our phones everywhere, there's no excuse not to pull it out and grab a quick sound-snapshot of i.e. your workplace, restaurant, or that toy you're buying for your favourite niece. 

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Different sound level meters:
(Left to right) NIOSH phone app, basic sound level meter and compliance-ready professional sound level meter

A caveat – These apps are only as good as your phone mic, and usually don’t record levels as accurately after 100dB. Now, remember that being exposed to 100dB for longer than 15 minutes can cause hearing loss. Damage can occur with only one minute of exposure at 112dB. So start taking measures to protect your hearing as soon as you're constantly hitting above 80 or 85dB!

If you're doing this for your workplace, please bear in mind that you might need a skilled person with calibrated equipment to take accurate readings. This will help you to achieve compliance, assess/mitigate any health and safety noise risks involved, and support any ACC claims that might occur. If you suspect that your workplace noise exceeds safe levels, feel free to ask us. We're happy to help :) 

If you're working in an environment that you suspect is damaging your hearing, whip out that app, take a couple of readings, then notify Worksafe if you think those noise levels are hurting you. Remember, noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, and also 100% preventable!


Firearms, firecrackers, and jet engines taking off are all louder than 140dB. If you find yourself near any of these without hearing protection, use your fingers and plug your ears! And at the same time, move away from the noise — even a few extra feet can reduce the loudness significantly.

Want to know how loud those headphones are for the music you're listening to? Easy. Put the earbuds next to your phone's speaker. It won't be completely accurate, but it won't be that far off.

P.S: There’s an app called Soundprint (both on Apple and Android) that allows you to check and post the sound level readings of places like cafes and restaurants. Since we currently don’t have a better alternative, we do encourage people to use it! If you do take decibel readings in New Zealand, let us know the place and reading levels. We'll publish this so others know which shops/restaurants/workplaces are great or not so good for safe sound!

If you have no choice but to be exposed to loud noises, wear hearing protection. It's important to not overprotect your ears though, since that can cause a myriad of other problems.

Keep Learning

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Attenuating Sound

What does "attenuation" mean? What does a 20 dB or Class 3 earplug really do?

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Next Topic: Sound Health

How can sound hurt you? When is it dangerous?

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Next Topic: The Law

What do New Zealand's laws say about noise?

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Next Topic: Hearing Conservation

Protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss with 3 simple steps.