Meters for Measuring Decibel Levels

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Meters for Measuring Decibel Levels
Measuring noise levels can help you gain evidence against noisy neighbours. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Finding out about meters for measuring decibel levels can help you determine the best type of decibel meter for your intended use. Decibels (dB) are units of sound, and decibel meters are used for measuring volume. Types of decibel meter include handheld sound pressure level decibel meters, integrating sound level meters, software-based meters and even mobile phone application decibel meters. Finding out the level of the sound you are exposed to can help you avoid hearing damage.

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SPL

Sound pressure level (SPL) decibel meters take instantaneous readings of the level of sound pressure in the immediate environment at the current moment. The highest volume sound will be picked up and displayed in decibels on the readout. Decibels are units of sound, and their readings can often be misleading. A sound at 20 dB is 10 times louder than one at 10 dB, which can make understanding decibel readings a little bit confusing. A person's hearing will be damaged after eight hours' exposure to 85 dB or 15 minutes exposure at 100 dB. SPL meters are more common than other types of meter, and are simpler to operate.

Integrating Meters

Slightly more expensive and complicated than their SPL cousins, integrating sound level meters take measurements over an extended period of time. If you are struggling with noisy neighbours or a working environment, the decibel level over an extended period of time is more damning evidence than a one-off reading. You can set integrating sound level meters to record readings over the course of a day, and then upload the results to a computer, where it can be plotted on a graph. With information such as this, you are more likely to be able to use your readings as reliable evidence.

Software-Based

Many software applications can be used to measure decibel levels of a noise. These applications generally cost less than the price of a physical meter, and work just as effectively. Whether decibel meters of this type will be useful for measuring noise levels in practice depends on whether you are able to take your computer or laptop to the source of the sound.

Mobile Phone

Decibel meters have started to appear as applications for mobile phones such as the iPhone. The application makes it possible to measure decibel levels (up to a maximum of 110 dB) using your mobile phone. These are essentially a more mobile version of the software-based decibel meters. The readout is displayed in numbers and can also be shown with a needle.

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