1. Why Measure Noise Levels
    1.1 Physical Health Effects
    1.2 Psychological Impacts Of Noise
  2. How Is Sound Measured
  3. How Loud Are Some Common Sounds In Decibels
  4. How To Measure Decibels With Instruments
    4.1 Professional Decibel Meter
    4.2 Computer
    4.3 Mobile App
  5. How To Measure Sound Level - The Right Way
    5.1 Consider The Distance Between The Meter And The Sound Source
    5.2 Take Into Account The Direction Of The Noise Source
    5.3 Measuring Outdoors And Indoors
  6. Why Decibelpro.App Is The Best Way To Measure Sound?

Learning how to measure decibels is essential for monitoring sound levels. This way, you can avoid hazardous noise and keep your hearing safe.

In this article, we’re going to explore why you should measure noise levels and how to measure sound. Plus, the effects of noise on your physical and psychological wellbeing.

Why Measure Noise Levels?

Human hearing can be adversely affected by loud noises. Therefore, measuring sound decibels is essential for maintaining your hearing health.

Loud noises can either be workplace-related such as the noise of industrial machinery or come from day-to-day sources such as car or aircraft traffic.

No matter the source, exposure to high levels of noise can cause a wide range of physical and psychological effects. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers traffic noise pollution the second worst environmental stressor for humans after air pollution.

Consequently, many countries are putting statutory rules in place to limit noise levels and protect human hearing.

Physical Health Effects

The least damaging effects of loud noises are annoyance and sleep disturbance. They usually occur in densely populated areas such as cities and can affect a large number of people. Elevated stress levels due to noise are also reported by many people living in city environments.

Among the more severe physical health effects of noise, the most common are hearing impairment or damage and tinnitus. The incidence of these health issues has been on the rise in recent decades due to cities becoming overpopulated and the increased use of industrial machines.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise or exposure to high-intensity noises can also cause:

  • hearing loss
  • Hypertension
  • vasoconstriction
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • immune system issues.

Psychological Impact of Noise

High-intensity noise or prolonged exposure to noise is also linked to adverse psychological effects.

The most common psychological effects of noise are:

  • annoyance
  • psychiatric disorders such as personality changes or violent reactions
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • psychological triggers for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How Is Sound Measured?

How loud we perceive a sound relates to numerous factors such as intensity, volume, duration, frequency, and amplitude.

Sound intensity (or sound pressure) is measured in decibels (dB). To better show how humans perceive sound intensity, the decibel scale is logarithmic.

The dB scale shows sound intensity, and the dBA scale shows sound intensity depending on the response of the human ear. For this reason, the dBA scale is typically used to describe sound level recommendations.

How Loud Are Some Common Sounds in Decibels?


Example Sources

Health effects











Quiet rural background noise



Library noises, quiet urban background noise



Relaxed conversation, ordinary suburban activity



Busy office or restaurant noise, loud conversation



TV volume, Freeway traffic at 50 feet (15.2 meters)

None; unpleasant for some


Factory noise, food processor, car wash at 20 feet (6.1 meters)

Possible hearing damage after lengthy exposure


Lawn mower, motorcycle at 25 feet (7.62 meters)

Likely hearing damage after lengthy exposure


Outboard motor, jackhammer

Serious damage likely after lengthy exposure


Loud rock concert, steel mill

May be immediately painful; damage after lengthy exposure very likely


Chainsaw, thunderclap

Usually immediately painful


Jet takeoffs on aircraft carrier deck

Immediate hearing loss or eardrum rupture possible

How To Measure Decibels With Instruments

There are several instruments you can use to measure decibels. Some are hand-held professional sound measurement devices and others are apps or programs you can install on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Professional Decibel Meter

Professional decibel meters (aka sound level meters or noise dosimeters) are most commonly used by sound professionals to measure sound levels. They are individual devices that range in price and accuracy but are typically more expensive than other options.

These specialized sound level measurement tools use a very responsive microphone to measure sound pressure waves (or vibrations) and deliver precise decibel level readings.


A less expensive way to measure decibels is to install specialized software or equipment on your computer.

How accurate your results are will depend on the equipment you are using and how well it is calibrated.

Some popular options include Decibel Reader and Audacity.

Mobile App

The least expensive way to measure sound decibels is using a phone or tablet app. It is also the most convenient way because it makes sound measurement easy wherever you are.

Sound level apps use your device’s microphone instead of an external mic to capture sound and provide decibel readings. If the app you use is properly calibrated with high-quality equipment, its readings will be the same as the ones made with professional equipment.

How To Measure Sound Level - The Right Way

When you measure sound decibels, certain factors will affect your readings. How far you are from the source of the noise, the direction of the noise, as well as ambient sounds will all cause different sound level readings.

The best way to measure sound decibels is to stand as close to the source as possible and avoid any other noises or obstacles that can affect the path of the sound wave from its source to the sound level meter.

Consider the Distance Between the Meter and the Sound Source

The intensity of a sound changes depending on its distance from the source. Mathematically, the decibel level will drop by 6 dB each time you double the distance from the source.

Therefore, the further you move away from a sound, the fewer decibels your sound measurement device will show. The closer you are to the source and the clearer the path to it, the higher your reading.

Take into Account the Direction of the Noise Source

To measure sound decibel levels accurately, you should also avoid any obstacles hindering the path of the sound wave. Things like furniture, buildings, cars, anything that stands between you and the sound source.

You should place the sound level meter in the direction of the noise source and make sure the sound wave’s path is as clear as possible.

Measuring Outdoors and Indoors

When measuring noise levels, you will also have to take into account any ambient noise.

For instance, you will get different readings measuring the same sound indoors and outdoors. This is because when measuring outside, your sound level meter will also catch ambient noises. Therefore, readings may change if any loud noise is closer to the sound level meter.

For example, if you want to measure the noise of a plane taking off and you are standing a few hundred meters away and there is traffic noise between you and the plane, the sound level meter will record the traffic noise louder because it is closer.

Why Decibel ProApp Is the Best Way to Measure Sound

Apps are the most convenient and the cheapest way to easily measure decibels. They use the phone or tablet’s integrated microphones to capture sound and read sound levels.

The accuracy of a sound level meter app depends on how well it is calibrated with the device’s mic. Because Decibel Pro uses high-quality calibration equipment, it is able to deliver professional sound-level meter readings.

To measure noise levels, simply open Decibel Pro and place it as close as possible to the source of the sound. It will instantly show you the decibel level on the screen.

To learn more about the Decibel app, click here.