What is Sound: The Correlation Between Sound Power and Sound Pressure

Sound, it is all around at every given point of the day. Whether it is from the music we listen to, the person talking to you, your cars engine, or the wind blowing through the leaves there is no escaping it. Hearing is one of the five senses that the majority of humans rely on and should be protected at all costs and with a good understanding of what sound is, one can help mitigate damage done to their hearing. Sound can be broken down into two parts, sound power and sound pressure. But the real question is, how do these corollate to each other to become the sound that we rely on.

Sound Wave

Sound Power (Watts) is defined as the rate at which sound energy (decibels) is emitted, reflected, transmitted or received, per unit of time. Whereas, Sound Pressure is defined as the local pressure deviation from the ambient atmospheric pressure, caused by a sound wave. Based on these two definitions it can be determined that sound power is the cause that generates the sound wave and sound pressure is the effect or what we hear after the sound wave has traveled to the ear.

This can be summed up in a simple analogy using a light bulb. Light bulbs use electricity to generate a source of light, this means that the power required (also stated in Watts) to cause the bulb to light up is comparable to Sound Power. The intensity of the light being generated (stated in Lumens) would be the Sound Pressure. Sound Pressure is what we would typically hear or call sound. This is what is measured because that is the harmful aspect to our hearing and ears. If the Sound Pressure is high enough and the ear is exposed to it long enough, permanent damage can be done resulting in hearing loss to the point of complete hearing lose.

I have known many people who have lost there hearing either completely or a large portion of it from exposure to loud noises. EXAIR designs and manufactures quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products. These products either meet or exceed the OSHA noise Standards in OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95 (a).

The OSHA Standard for how long someone can be exposed to a certain noise level

If you are not sure what the noise level is in your facility check out EXAIR’s Digital Sound Level Meter. It’s an easy to use instrument for measuring Sound Pressure levels in an area.

EXAIR’s Digital Sound Level Meter

If you have questions about the Digital Sound Level Meter, or would like to talk about any of the quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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What is a Decibel Level?

Decibel level also known as dBA, is how the industry measures sound intensity’s effect on the human ear and is an important value when discussing noise exposure for employees and operators within manufacturing. Manufacturing personnel can be at risk for hearing damage when exposed to high decibel levels if the proper precautions are not taken. For reference, 0 dBA is the softest level that a person can hear. Normal speaking voices are around 65 dBA. A rock concert can be about 120 dBA.

Sounds that are 85 dBA or above can permanently damage your ears. The more sound pressure a sound has, the less time it takes to cause damage. This damage occurs within a sensitive part of our ear called the cochlea, which contain thousands of hair cells used to allow our brains to detect sounds. For example, a sound at 85 dBA may take as long at 8 hours to cause permanent damage, while a sound at 100 dBA can start damaging hair cells after only 30 minutes of listening.

OSHA Max Noise Exposure Chart

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Whether you work near machinery, at a sports venue, on a tarmac, or operate a jackhammer—hearing loss is preventable.

Noise may be a problem in your workplace if you:

  • Hear ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work.
  • Have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm’s length away.
  • Experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.

If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone 3 feet away, noise levels might be over 85 decibels. Sound-measuring instruments are available to measure the noise levels in a workspace.

The first step to lowering your sound level is to take a baseline reading of your various processes and devices that are causing the noise. EXAIR’s Sound Level Meter, Model 9104, is an easy to use instrument that provides a digital readout of the sound level. They come with an NIST traceable calibration certificate and will allow you to determine what processes and areas are causing the most trouble.

From there, EXAIR has a wide range of Intelligent Compressed Air Products® that are designed to reduce compressed air consumption as well as sound levels. For noisy blowoffs where you’re currently using an open-ended pipe or a loud commercial air nozzle, EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles are the ideal solution. Not only can they pay for themselves over a short period of time time due to compressed air savings, but your operators will thank you when they’re able to hear later on in life!

 EXAIR has the tools you need to reduce sound level in your processes. If you’d like to talk to an Application Engineer about any applications that you feel could benefit from a sound reduction, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Measuring And Adding Sound Levels Together

What sound level do you get when you feed an EXAIR Super Air Nozzle at 80psig? What if there are two of them?  Or three?  Grab your scientific calculators, folks…we’re gonna ‘math’ today!

But first, a little explanation of sound power & sound pressure:

Strictly speaking, power is defined as energy per unit time, and is used to measure energy generation or consumption.  In acoustics, though, sound power is applicable to the generation of the sound…how much sound is being MADE by a noisy operation.

Sound pressure is the way acoustics professionals quantify the intensity of the sound power at the target.  For the purposes of most noise reduction discussions, the target is “your ears.”

The sound levels that we publish are measured at a distance of 3 feet from the product, to the side.  The units we use are decibels, corrected for “A” weighting (which accounts for how the human ear perceives the intensity of the sound, which varies for different frequencies,) or dBA.  Also, decibels follow a logarithmic scale, which means two important things:

  • A few decibels’ worth of change result in a “twice as loud” perception to your ears.
  • Adding sources of sound doesn’t double the decibel level.

If you want to know how the sound level from a single source is calculated, those calculations are found here.  For the purposes of this blog, though, we’re going to assume a user wants to know what the resultant sound level is going to be if they add a sound generating device to their current (known) situation.

Combined Sound Level (dBA) = 10 x log10[10SL1/10 + 10SL2/10 + 10SL3/10 …]

Let’s use an EXAIR Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (rated at 74dBA) as an example, and let’s say we have one in operation, and want to add another.  What will be the increase in dBA?

10 x log10[1074/10 + 1074/10] = 77.65 dBA

Now, there are two reasons I picked the Model 1100 as an example:

  • It’s one of our most versatile products, with a wide range of applications, and a proven track record of efficiency, safety, and sound level reduction.
  • We proved out the math in a real live experiment:

Why do I care about all of this?  My Dad experienced dramatic hearing loss from industrial exposure at a relatively young age…he got his first hearing aids in his early 40’s…so I saw, literally up close and very personal, what a quality of life issue that can be.  The fact that I get to use my technical aptitude to help others lower industrial noise exposure is more than just making a living.  It’s something I’m passionate about.  If you want to talk about sound level reduction in regard to your use of compressed air, talk to me.  Please.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meters Measure Noise Exposure Levels

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Digital Sound Meter

EXAIR offers the model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter.  It is an easy to use instrument for measuring and monitoring the sound level pressures in and around equipment and other manufacturing processes.

Sound meters convert the movement of a thin membrane due to the pressure waves of sound into an electric signal that is processed and turned into a readable output, typically in dBA.  The dBA scale is the weighted scale that most closely matches the human ear in terms of the sounds and frequencies that can be detected.

Noise induced hearing loss can be a significant problem for many workers in manufacturing and mining. To protect workers in the workplace from suffering hearing loss OSHA has set limits to the time of exposure based on the sound level.  The information in the OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95(a) is summarized below.

OSHA Noise Level

The EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meter is an accurate and responsive instrument that measures the decibel level of the sound and displays the result on the large optionally back-lit LCD display. There is an “F/S” option to provide measurement in either ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ modes for stable or quickly varying noises. The ‘Max Hold’ function will capture and hold the maximum sound level, and update if a louder sound occurs.

Certification of accuracy and calibration traceable to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is included.

If you have questions about the Digital Sound Level Meter, or would like to talk about any of the quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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