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Acoustic Listening Devices

Acoustic Listening Device

Can you Listen for a Water Leak?

Yes, you can listen for the sound of a water leak to help find them. However, in our experience, very few water leaks can be heard without using an Acoustic Listening Device to hear a water leak.

Acoustic Listening Devices are one of the tools used to find water leaks and are just one of the methods used to find water leaks in your property. As we have said elsewhere, professional leak detection specialists carry a number of tools and they all compliment each other. However, it would be difficult to find a water leak with just one of them. In fact, some devices (including acoustic listening devices) can be used to pinpoint the area of a leak and then you can refine this area with other information and tools.

Acoustic Listening Devices – Uses

Very often, acoustic listening devices are used to listen for leaks within walls, floors or ceilings where water pipework cannot be seen. They are highly sensitive pieces of equipment which amplify sounds for the leak detection technician to listen to. They normally have two main parts to them, the microphone (to pick up the sound) and the headphone (to play the sound to the user).

For example when we are doing central heating leak detection, including when people are getting a persistent F1 boiler fault on their system, acoustic listening devices are very useful.

It is important to note that an experienced leak detection specialist will have a ‘trained ear’ to know what to listen for with water leaks. They will pick up on sounds that a normal person might ignore, equally they will understand the sounds that are ‘normal’ in pipework that do not indicate a leak. This is clearly very important because you do not want to be excavating or accessing an area on a misunderstood sound from the device! Using a professional leak detection company is recommended.

What does a Water Leak sound like?

That is a very good question and the answer depends – it will depend on the type of leak. For example, as you might expect, a drip sounds different to a trickle, spray or flow of water from a leak. It also depends on where a leak is coming from, and the materials involved – both the pipework material and the location of the pipework – e.g. in concrete, in a cavity wall etc.

Something that can often help with what sound the technician is listening for can be using water meter readings coupled with our water leak calculator – these together will highlight the volume of water loss, which gives a clue as to whether you are looking for a drip or a gush of water. As you might expect, both sound very different on acoustic listening devices!

As we said before, the trained ear of a professional leak detection specialist will be tuned to understand very subtle noises that water leaks make.

A word of caution – something that you need to be very careful of is that the sound of leaks can transmit down pipework. You might hear something many meters away from the source of the leak. Again a professional will understand that and take acoustic listening device readings in several places.

Types of Acoustic Listening Devices

As with many of the tools used in water leak detection, there is a large range of prices for acoustic listening devices, ranging from a few pounds all the up to thousands of pounds. However, unlike some other equipment, although the more expensive gear is most often better and has additional features, some of the lower end devices can actually help a lot in finding water leaks! In fact some people still use water listening sticks.

Water Leak logo clear capitals
Water Leak logo

For more about this subject, see our article about acoustic leak detection with real examples of what the sound a water leak makes when it is dripping.

How does a Water Listening Stick Work?

Water Listening sticks work a bit like a stethoscope in transmitting the sound vibrations from a surface to the users ears, via a solid rod and listening cup / ear piece (usually in a cavity).

Clearly they are not top of the range tools but they are much better than nothing at all when searching for sounds associated with water leaks. However, they are very robust, easy to use and don’t require batteries to operate!

Here is a video of people using water listening sticks on mains water leaks in the street. We have a useful post about how to report water leaks in the street.

Why do I hear water dripping in my walls?

This can be from a number of reasons, one of which is because you have a water leak. It is not usually normal to hear dripping so, if you think you might have a water leak, get in touch with our specialist team today. There are other signs of a water leak to check for too.