Tinnitus and other permanent hearing damage are apparently reaching near-epidemic levels. To help warn people when their hearing is at risk, the hearing-protection specialists Sensorcom have produced the Soundcheck key fob.
This is a simple audio meter with an LED noise-level display. The first flickerings of the green LED indicate a noise level of 55dB, becoming steady at 60dB. The amber LED starts flickering from about 75dB and becomes steady at 80dB. The official First Action Level, as defined by UK Noise At Work legislation, is a noise level of 85dB (although this will reduce to 83dB from April 2006), which obliges employers to advise staff of potential danger and to offer some protection.
The red LED has three indications. A slow pulsing represents a noise level of 100dB, which is above the Second Action Level (currently 90dB but reducing to 87dB from April 2006) at which employers are obliged not only to provide hearing protection but also to enforce its use. Rapid pulsing of the red LED represents levels above 100dB, and the light becomes steady over 105dB, where noise levels become very dangerous.
Clearly, the Soundcheck is not intended to replace a properly calibrated sound level meter for accurate assessments of sound levels — although its calibration does appear reasonably accurate when checked against an NTI Minilyser with its calibrated mic. But it is certainly a very handy tool to have to hand, and will apparently perform around 1000 level measurements per set of button cells. It is available on-line at a very affordable UK price. A highly recommended accessory for anyone interested in protecting their hearing.