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How to measure decibels with the NIOSH sound level meter app

For a quick lesson on how to use the NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) app to measure decibels and noise, check out my latest Soundproofist video.



This handy app is free, although only available for iOS devices right now. It's a great app to use if you want to measure average and maximum noise levels with either A-weighted or C-weighted decibels. You can save each measurement as a report.

Learn more about measuring noise and about soundproofing from Soundproofist.

Download the free NIOSH app from the App Store and learn more about it from this CDC documentation.








Recent posts

New Soundproofist episode: an interview with Dr. Antonella Radicchi (Hush City app)

Participate in citizen science: learn how to map the quiet spaces where you live
Dr. Antonella Radicchi is an architect, a researcher, and a soundscape urbanist. As part of her work, she developed an app called Hush City. You can get it from the App Store (for iOS) or from Google Play (for Android).
When you're at a quiet place -- a street, a park, a beach, a path -- you can take note of it with the Hush City app. Make a recording, take a photo, and upload it to the Hush City map, and include your notes about your experience so you can share it with others. By mapping the quiet areas, you can also help urban planners to be aware of -- and protect -- these spaces.
Listen to the conversation with Antonella Radicchi here.

D.I.Y. sound panels and studio hacks

Inexpensive D.I.Y. sound panels for home studios Looking for acoustic ideas for your home studio? YouTube has plenty of D.I.Y. videos for controlling sound and adding absorption.

If you're running a business (especially a restaurant), you need to buy professional, fire-rated sound control panels that conform to local codes. You might also need to speak with an acoustics expert. But for home projects, you might need only a quick hack for a small room.

These four videos show a range of materials. Notice that I didn't include any that use fiberglass batts because you don't want those tiny glass fibers coming through the fabric.

This video from DIY Perks shows how you can repurpose some old towels into a sound-absorbing panel.:



And this guy from JT Guitar leaves no stone unturned as he details everything you need to build sturdy wood-framed panels with insulation in them, including the shopping trip, the tools you need, the measurements (special bonus: metric), exactly where …

More about restaurant noise

Does extreme restaurant noise ruin your dining experience?  Personally, I get really frustrated if I have to yell in a restaurant or when I have to strain to hear the person sitting across from me. I keep track of particularly obnoxious restaurants and try to avoid them. You can also use an app called SoundPrint to see the loudness of a venue (in decibels) on a map.

Recently I decided to start a podcast called about noise, acoustics, and sound solutions, and the first episode focuses on restaurant noise. In this episode, I visit some restaurants and record what it's like trying to hold a conversation at 85 decibels or above.

Then I contrast those environments to a restaurant with sound absorbing panels on the ceiling. The panels really made a difference. Finally, I interview the president of Audimute and we talked about how their acoustical consultants deal with different environments like loud restaurants -- and about some of their sound-panel options.


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Restaurant noise: how much is too much?

I went out for dinner this weekend at a tapas restaurant. The food was great, and the ambiance could have been great, too, if the restaurant had taken some steps to reduce noise. After all, going out for Spanish tapas should evoke feelings of pleasure, relaxation, great flavors, and a general "chilled out" environment.

However, like many trendy eateries, the floors and walls were made of hard surfaces, and the sound just bounced and amplified. Every table was full of patrons -- which was great, of course. But when we walked in, we were greeted to a blast of noise. We had to yell at our table to hear each other. So I pulled out my mobile phone and checked one of my decibel-reader apps. It was 88.8 decibels.

This article from Restaurant Engine states that normal conversation ranges from 55 to 65 dB, conversation gets difficult at 75 dB, and noise becomes "damaging" at 85 dB. Yet our table was clocking in at over 88 dB when we were just sitting across from each other…

Example from Roxul: insulating a home theatre room

I like this video from Roxul because the presenter clearly explains the difference between the two types of noise: airborne and low-frequency noise, which I will add to here.

The lower frequencies travel through the wood studs. A low frequency travels from your wall surfaces, floors, and ceilings if they sit directly on those studs. Lower frequencies include bass from your stereo, impact sounds from walking or pounding, trucks driving outside, and maybe the spin cycle on a washer.

Roxul insulation mitigates the other kind of noise -- airborne noise -- which can include talking and TV (without bass). This insulation product is dense and does a really great job of blocking airborne noise. However, used alone, it doesn't stop low-frequency noise.

The presenter shows how to insert Roxul batts between the studs, which you've seen before. Then he installs a resilient channel to keep the drywall from touching the wood studs. The resilient channel's job is to reduce the low freque…

Example: Condo soundproofing

This short video from builder Matt Risinger covers a lot of the issues we've discussed in this soundproofing blog. Matt has a show on YouTube that gives examples of successful construction projects. In this example, he shows a soundproofing project in a two-unit condo with a shared wall between them.

They did everything right. The used staggered wall studs (with an 8-inch separation between the two units), Roxul batting, QuietRock on the walls, putty pads on the outlets, and Green Glue.

As a test, Matt turns on a boom box in one of the rooms and measures the decibel output. Then he goes to the room on the other side of the wall to show how much of that noise leaks through and uses a decibel meter again. It's almost silent. This is what you hope to achieve, especially with new construction. But it won't happen unless you use the type of materials and processes shown here.

Here's the video. Great job!