How Loud Is Too Loud: Decibel levels of common sounds
Noise is measured in units called decibels, on a scale from zero to 140. The higher the number in decibels, the louder the noise. The louder the noise, the greater the risk of hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur with regular exposure to noise levels of 110 decibels or more for periods longer than one minute. No more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to 100 decibels is recommended. Long-term exposure to 80-85 decibels or over can cause hearing loss.
Here is a list of common noises and their decibel levels:
- Aircraft at take-off (180)
- Fireworks (140)
- Snowmobile (120)
- Chain saw (110)
- Amplified music (110)
- Lawn mower (90)
- Noisy office (90)
- Vacuum cleaner (80)
- City traffic (80)
- Normal conversation (60)
- Refrigerator humming (40)
- Whisper (20)
- Leaves rustling (10)
- Calm breathing (10)
Noise levels of 130 decibels or over will be painful and is very likely to cause immediate hearing damage.
Perceptions of increases in decibel level
The list below gives you an idea of how noticable a change in decibel level will be to you:
- 1dB - Not noticable
- 3dB - Barely noticeable
- 5dB - Clearly noticeable change
- 10dB - About twice as loud
- 20dB - About four times as loud
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