Billions of people in this world are using smartphones now. Smartphones have become a “body part” that you can’t live without. Millions of apps have been developed for everything, including sound/noise measuring. Sound Level Meter apps – do they work? What will happen to actual Sound Level Meter, the device? OK, I will say it at the beginning of the article. No, apps can’t replace the Sound Level Meter.
As mentioned, billions of people in this world have access to millions of apps (because of smartphones.) App developers have developed apps to measure noise/sound as well. Well, let’s understand the intention of apps developers. They didn’t develop those apps to kill the demand for Sound Level Meter. They didn’t develop it for fun either. Their intention was to help people those who don’t or can’t buy an actual Sound Level Meter. Would you buy a meter for home use? No, right? Anyway, you can download an app to your smartphone, and use it for getting a rough idea about sound/noise.
How accurate are Sound Level Meter apps?
This was a hot topic in the past years as well. I came across a pilot study that was conducted by NIOSH to test the accuracy of these apps. They started the test with 130 IOS apps. Anyway, only 10 apps met the criteria to be used for the final study (a disaster at the beginning.) Well, I am not going to explain the whole story about the study here. I will discuss the final results. Only four apps were accurate enough to compete with an actual Sound Level Meter. OK, they didn’t conduct a “perfect study” in a controlled noise environment. But we can get an idea about the accuracy of most Sound Level Meter apps.
The actual device
“A Sound Level Meter is used for acoustic (sound that travels through the air) measurements. It is commonly a hand-held instrument with a microphone. The diaphragm of the microphone responds to changes in air pressure caused by sound waves.” It was the definition I saw on Wikipedia. The device was to built to measure sound that travels through the air. When something was developed for a “certain purpose;” we can assume it as the best for that purpose.
Well, we don’t have to talk about the accuracy of the Sound Level Meter, the device. It is the device that is being used for noise monitoring in occupational hearing loss studies. It is the universally accepted device to measure noise/sound.
Well, I can’t say anything about the future of smartphone apps. What if an app developer came up with the most accurate sound app in the world, which can match the Sound Level Meter? Currently, the actual device is the king. As mentioned, you don’t have to buy a device for home use. Actual devices are widely being used for commercial and industrial applications.
Some final words
Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. People who work in industries of construction, airports, emergency services, manufacturing, armed forces, and entertainment are more vulnerable to getting exposed to loud noises. Monitoring noise with a Sound Level Meter is extremely important in these industries. Smartphone apps may not be the best choice here.