Sound produced by marine pile driving activities poses a possible risk to marine life. The assessment and mitigation of this risk requires a precise prediction of the expected levels. An analytical approach to estimate the radiated sound exposure levels is presented, based on the axial symmetry of the problem, resulting in damped cylindrical spreading. The approach is verified against numerical results from the recently held COMPILE benchmark workshop and validated with data from three different wind farm construction sites in the North Sea. In addition, found to yield more accurate estimates of the sound exposure level than an empirical decay formula sometimes used to evaluate the impact of marine pile driving. © 2018 Acoustical Society of America.