Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How Do You Measure Up?

As I was moving about my work day today, I realized I was using the same app over and over again. North side, south side, young and old, if you were getting therapy from me today, you were looking at my sound level meter.

Have you heard about this wonderful thing, the sound level meter? Well, let me tell you all about it!

A scientist would tell you that a sound level meter is an instrument that measures sound pressure levels, but that sounds kind of spooky to most people.  So, the way I explain it, "It's what  I use to measure the loudness of something."

It's an app I downloaded from the App Store a few years ago. It's made by Sky Paw Co. Ltd. and is currently in it's 10th edition. Did I mention... it's free? You can get rid of pesky pop ups and banner ads for a mere 99 cents, but I never did that. And good news for you guys with Android devices, the free app is also available from Google Play.

The app developer says that it "precisely measures the sound pressure levels all around you" but  goes on to say, "We've tried our best to make the app as accurate as possible, but this app is intended for entertainment purposes only." Since I'm not conducting scientific research,  "as accurate as possible" sounds great to me!

The Sound Level Meter:
A Handy, Dandy Tool for SLPs

Provide education:  

Using the sound level meter as a visual reference, it is a snap to provide education to patients and family members regarding volume.

  • Teach the basics about environmental noise 
  • Explain normal parameters for conversational loudness
  • Make recommendations on how to decrease environmental noise
  • Give information about compensatory voicing techniques
  • Use as a reference when teaching about good vocal hygiene
  • Explain vocal misuse and/or hyperfunction
  • Teach the correlation between breathing and voicing as it relates to intensity and duration
  • Discuss the consequences of inadequate intensity 
  • Explain auditory comprehension compensatory strategies

Provide feedback:

Prompts and cues are great, but visual feedback is a highly effective way for your patients and family members to understand their performance levels.

  • Help your patient see how they measure up
  • Show your patient what is normal, too soft or too loud
  • Demonstrate appropriate and effective performance levels
  • Show your patient target volume levels
  • Provide measurable data to show changes over time
  • Use the plotted history to quickly see the effect of adjustments being made

Daily use in therapy:

As I mentioned earlier, I have found numerous ways to incorproate a sound level meter into my daily treatment sessions. Besides voice therapy, I have also used this device when working with persons with Parkinson's Disease, Dysarthria and Dysphagia. Here are just a few examples:

  • Practice using increased volume to enhance intelligibility
  • Practice using decreased volume to diminish vocal misuse
  • Enable patients to see pauses between words when practicing slow rate
  • Practice producing a strong, effective cough
  • Practice producing a strong, effective throat clear
  • Teach the patient to monitor and/or assess their own performance

Other neat benefits:

There are a variety of sound level meters out there, this one just happens to be my favorite because of some of the cool features.

  • shows average, peak and max values
  • gives real life examples of loudness equivalencies
  • creates a plotted history of average values
  • easy to use
  • quick on and off using play and pause
  • record and export data for future analysis
  • large digital numbers are easy to see
  • allows for calibration 
  • sensitive up to 110 decibels 
  • able to be used on iPads and iPhones
  • compatable with Android devices 
  • cool new overlay feature

   Decibel 10th: Pro Sound Meter- screenshot

While it may be true that quiet people have the loudest minds,  a quiet voice is generally ineffective. So, as you go about your work this week, consider who you know that may benefit from the feedback a sound level meter provides. Download the app and give it a try...what have you got to lose?

The volume of your voice does not increase the validity of your argument.
Steve Maraboli

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