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Sound meter app can help prevent hearing loss at work

Unlike more dramatic workplace injuries, hearing damage isn't always obvious before it's too late. Ear plugs and other hearing protection may be available at your workplace, but how do you know when you need to use them?

A new smartphone app developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health can help. The app, which can be downloaded for free from NIOSH, reports the sound levels in a workplace and offers information on preventing hearing loss. 

Exposure to dangerous sounds levels at work is very common. NIOSH estimates that 22 million workers face noise levels that can damage their hearing if they aren't protected. Workers who are often exposed to noise levels above NIOSH's recommended limits include:

  • Carpenters (an estimated 84 percent of the time)
  • Construction Workers (73 percent of the time)
  • Electricians (57 percent of the time)
  • Iron Workers (86 percent of the time)
  • Masonry Workers (63 percent of the time)
  • Operating Engineers (77 percent of the time)
  • Sheet Metal Workers (57 percent of the time)

Researchers and developers created this app to help workers monitor the sound hazards at work so they can better understand when they need to protect their hearing. NIOSH hopes this information can help workers prevent long-term damage to their hearing.

Sound hazards stem not only from high decibels but also from long exposure to noise. For example, being exposed to a lower decibel level all day might be more dangerous than a brief exposure to a high-decibel noise. The NIOSH app can provide weighted measurements, taking into account the decibel level and the exposure time.

If you're exposed to unsafe sound levels at work, it's important to wear hearing protection. And if you believe past exposure has led to significant hearing loss, it's a good idea to consult with an attorney about your workers' compensation options.

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