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What is the right sound level meter for your organisation?

Sound meters are an essential measuring tool in workplace environments, serving to protect employers’ hearing and provide a safe working environment.  As well as providing appropriate PPE, such as earplugs, sound monitoring is the best way to ensure that noise levels do not exceed legal standards.  Sound monitoring can also provide an indication that machines are not functioning correctly.  

sound level meter

How do sound level meters measure noise levels?

Noise is measured in decibels using an Equivalent Continuous Sound Pressure Level or LAeq or Leq.  This is the constant noise level produced by the equivalent total sound energy if it were produced over a set period of time.  Safe noise levels have been established as 8h of 85 dB(A). to 2 minutes at 103dbA.  As a practical comparison, construction work on average emits 130 dbA and an electric drill produces 95 dbA.  Concerts sit around 120dbA, the same as a fire alarm. 

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Weighting in a sound meter

The LAeq provides a standardised measurement parameter.  Also measured is the LC or the C-weighted and A-weighted sound level.  Weighting takes into account the way the human body responds to different frequencies.  C-weighting is more concerned with how the human ear reacts to low-frequency sounds.  These measurements are important when choosing a sound meter, to ensure your results are relevant to the environment.  Your sound meter should measure LAeq and LCpeak simultaneously to give the most useful reading.  

Types of sound meter

Sound meters are available as hand-held, mounted, and pocket-sized for mobile noise level monitoring.  Mobile sound meters are referred to as dosimeters (or dosemeters) and are suitable for engineers and technicians that move about the workplace.  The RS Pro NDM1354 Personal Noise Dose Meter, for example, can provide unsupervised exposure assessments of the surrounding workplace by measuring accumulated noise exposure. It measures the percentage of noise dose, exposure time, and sound levels. 

Sound level meters and the environment 

The right sound meter for your organisation will suit the environment and be able to measure within the parameters required for the conditions, whether it is air-conditioning or refrigeration noises, construction machinery or live events. 

A mountable sound meter will record and transmit data in a fixed environment in a plant or factory.  

Suitable sound meters will have:

  • a large, easy to read display 
  • an easy operation
  • fast and slow time weightings
  • both A and C frequency weightings
  • ample storage facility for measurement records  
  • USB downloading or real-time analysis directly to the desktop
  • the facility to attach frequency analyser, level recorder, FFT analyser, graphic recorder, or other complementary devices. 
  • long battery life
  • the ability to operate in temperatures appropriate to the environment. 

Consider the size of the establishment, the site, and location as well as whether it needs to be portable or mounted.  Talk to your sound meter expert to discuss the options available in a sound meter and which features you need to prioritize before purchasing to ensure you get a sound meter that will maintain safe levels of noise for your workforce. 

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