Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
You’re bringing the grandchildren to see your favorite professional sports team take on the league leaders. Will the roar of the crowd be enough to warrant wearing ear protection? Or maybe you’ve hired a local band to play outside at your daughter’s graduation party. Is the music too loud for your guests and the neighbors?
Fortunately, you don’t need to rely on your best judgment in order to know the answer. Thanks to modern technology, your smartphone can determine if your environment exposes you to harmful noises that may cause permanent or temporary noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Check out these highly rated smartphone decibel meter apps:
Apps for both Android and iOS
iTunes rating: 4.6 stars, free, offers in-app purchases
Google Play rating: 4 stars, $3.99
This highly-rated, free app turns your smartphone into a pre-calibrated, accurate and easily portable sound level meter. It has a standard measurement range from 30 to 130 dB. It boasts many features for measuring the intensity of sound around you built into a nicely-designed, intuitive user interface.
iTunes rating: 4.3 stars, $.99, offers in-app purchases
Google Play rating: 4.6 stars, free
This professional-grade sound level meter is measured after a traditional sound press level (SPL) meter, including ballistics, ranges, filters and decay rates. It uses your device’s microphone to detect sound and convert it into a SPL value. The app comes pre-calibrated for most mobile devices but can be adjusted to match professional calibrated meters. The universal app can be shared on all devices. A simple color-coded display indicates safe (green) and dangerous (red) hearing levels.
Too Noisy Pro
iTunes rating: 4 stars, $4.99
Google Play rating: 3.5 stars, $6.49
This easy-to-use app is built specifically for measuring noise levels in environments where there are groups of children. Teachers can use the Too Noisy app to keep watch on the sound levels in the classrooms and control the noise level. The interface is simple and designed so children will respond to it, graphically displaying noise levels in a fun and engaging way. Teachers and other childcare workers can adjust the sensitivity of the app to cater to louder activities and sudden noises with the sensitivity and dampening sliders.
Apps for iOS only
NIOSH Sound Level Meter
iTunes rating: 4.5 stars
Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), this app is exclusive to iPhone and is a useful tool for anyone working in noisy environments. It can raise employees’ awareness about the noise levels in their workplace, help them make informed decisions about their hearing health and determine when hearing protection is necessary. Researchers can also use the app to collect data about noise exposure.
SPLnFFT Noise Meter
iTunes rating: 4.7 stars
Designed by a signal processing expert, the advanced features on this app for iOS devices include a frequency analyzer, frequency meter, test signal generator and dosimeter. A simple interface displays the level of exposure using color—orange or red indicates dangerous levels where hearing protection is required. The app is recommended by the Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America.
Apps for Android only
Sound Meter Pro
Google Play rating: 4.4 stars
This app uses your smartphone’s microphone to detect sound and display it in decibels as well as display the last 30 seconds of data on an easy-to-read graph. Because the microphones in Android devices are used to record human voices, the maximum levels on this app are limited and sounds above 100dB are not recognized.
Sound Meter and Noise Detector
Google Play rating: 4.6 stars
Like most sound meter apps, this one uses your smartphone microphone to measure the sound in your environment. The decibel level is displayed on an easy-to-read dial. The history function indicates how long you’ve been exposed to the noise along with the noise reference, i.e., noisy street or quiet library.
Other apps for hearing loss
If you or a loved one has hearing loss or are concerned about noise levels, see our other articles on apps:
These apps can be very helpful in specific situations, but they are not a replacement for good hearing healthcare or properly fit hearing aids. If you suspect you or your child has hearing loss and need to find a hearing center near you, please visit our directory of consumer-reviewed hearing clinics.