NIOSH has come out with the best little online tool for understanding hazardous noise levels you've never seen.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health -- NIOSH -- is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These guys create the standards for workplace safety which the much more well-known OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) actually enforces. These organizations are responsible for making sure workplaces are actually safe enough for workers.
That may sound boring, but don't be deceived. Amidst all the critically important but arguably very dry material NIOSH provides, you can occasionally find a gem. A resource that is not only informative, but also easy to understand, interactive, and -- let's just admit it -- fun.
This time, NIOSH has created a Noise Meter, a sweet little online toy that lets you experience simulated, very loud noise levels by playing different sounds through you computer speakers, while you watch the noise meter needle on screen bounce up and down with eerie accuracy.
Never before has it been easier to really understand the volume differences between a whisper, a tractor, a jackhammer, and an ambulance siren (unless you happen to own a tractor and a jackhammer and have recenly experienced a spectacularly unfortunate accident requiring medical attention). Seriously though, being able to SEE the difference between volume levels -- and tell exactly when a sound becomes hazardous -- is a powerful tool. Educating people about how and when noise could be damaging their ears is a first critical move toward teaching people how to protect their hearing. The NIOSH Noise Meter is a fantastic, powerful, yet humble step in the right direction.
And it's awfully fun to play with, too.
Until next time, be safe and love your ears.
--Sarah Bergman, Web Developer