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Equipment

Sound Level Meter

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Fig 1: Sound level meter with dB range settings
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Summary

A device used to measure the loudness of sounds.

Operation

The type pictured here is available from both lab suppliers and electrical stores (Maplin etc) and are the same type used to detect noise pollution.

Sound level meters vary in their sensitivities, some are designed for very loud noises only whereas some have a very useful range of 0-130dB. This range suits school use.

Mainly used in lower school lessons to show sound ranges and noise pollution, the sound level meter has limited uses within science.

Relative noise levels are as follows:

Sound Noise Level (dB) Effect
Jet engine (near) 140 Unbearable
Gun fire 130 Threshold of pain
Thunderclap / nightclub 120 Threshold of sensation
Pneumatic drill / rock gig 110 Regular exposure of 1min or more risks hearing loss
Rubbish truck 100 No more than 15mins exposure recommended
Motorcycle / lawnmower 90 Very annoying
Industrial workplace 85 Regular 8 hour exposure can cause damage
City noise 80 Interferes with conversation
Vacuum cleaner 70 Intrusive
Normal conversation 60  
Quiet office 50 Comfortable
Whisper 30 Very quiet
Normal breathing 10 Just audible
Silence 0 Threshold of human hearing

Safety

 CautionThe contents of this page are for information only. Please refer to CLEAPSS or ASE safety advice and/or publications before undertaking any preparation, practical experiment or using any equipment featured on this site or any other.