The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has announced the availability of a new mobile application (app) for iOS devices that will measure sound levels in the workplace to help workers learn about their noise exposure and reduce the chances of hearing loss.
NIOSH estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels every year. In addition to damaging workers’ quality of life, occupational hearing loss carries a high economic burden. An estimated $242 million is spent annually on workers’ compensation for hearing loss disability.
The new app is designed to assist industrial hygienists, occupational safety and health managers, and workers who may not have access to professional sound measurement instruments to measure noise levels on the spot. The app is also designed to help raise awareness among workers about their work environment, especially those in the construction and the service industries (including musicians, teachers, and restaurant workers).
The app can serve as a practical tool that collects noise exposure data. The app provides a readout of the sound level in the workplace using either the built-in microphone or an external microphone and reports the instantaneous sound level in weighted decibels.
When the user presses the PLAY button to collect sound levels, excluding conversations, the app stores the data collected on the user’s device for downloading and sharing with managers or occupational safety and health staff. The app also provides important information about noise and hearing loss prevention.
NIOSH establishes recommended exposure limits (REL) for various hazards based on the best available science and practice. The REL for noise is 85 decibels, as an 8-hour time-weighted average. Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous to a worker’s hearing.
Researchers hope that increased awareness could lead workers and managers to request professional noise surveys and to implement engineering controls or hearing conservation programs to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.