Are Smartwatches a Suitable Tool to Monitor Noise Exposure for Public Health Awareness and Otoprotection?

Tim Fischer, Stephan Schraivogel, Marco Caversaccio, Wilhelm Wimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction and Objectives: Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus are common problems that can be prevented with hearing protection measures. Sound level meters and noise dosimeters enable to monitor and identify health-threatening occupational or recreational noise, but are limited in their daily application because they are usually difficult to operate, bulky, and expensive. Smartwatches, which are becoming increasingly available and popular, could be a valuable alternative to professional systems. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the applicability of smartwatches for accurate environmental noise monitoring. Methods: The A-weighted equivalent continuous sound pressure level (LAeq) was recorded and compared between a professional sound level meter and a popular smartwatch. Noise exposure was assessed in 13 occupational and recreational settings, covering a large range of sound pressure levels between 35 and 110 dBA. To assess measurement agreement, a Bland-Altman plot, linear regression, the intra-class correlation coefficient, and descriptive statistics were used. Results: Overall, the smartwatch underestimated the sound level meter measurements by 0.5 dBA (95% confidence interval [0.2, 0.8]). The intra-class correlation coefficient showed excellent agreement between the two devices (ICC = 0.99), ranging from 0.65 (music club) to 0.99 (concert) across settings. The smartwatch's sampling rate decreased significantly with lower sound pressure levels, which could have introduced measurement inaccuracies in dynamic acoustic environments. Conclusions: The assessment of ambient noise with the tested smartwatch is sufficiently accurate and reliable to improve awareness of hazardous noise levels in the personal environment and to conduct exploratory clinical research. For professional and legally binding measurements, we recommend specialized sound level meters or noise dosimeters. In the future, smartwatches will play an important role in monitoring personal noise exposure and will provide a widely available and cost-effective measure for otoprotection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number856219
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Volume13
DOIs
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • L
  • big data
  • ecological assessment
  • noise dosimetry
  • noise exposure
  • otoprotection
  • tinnitus
  • wearables

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