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I Love What I Hear! Common Sounds

This decibel (dB) table compares some common sounds and shows how they rank in potential harm to hearing.

Sound Noise Level (dB) Effect
Boom Cars 145  
Jet Engines (near) 140  
Shotgun Firing
Jet Takeoff (100-200 ft.)
Rock Concerts (varies) 110–140 Threshold of pain begins around 125 dB
Oxygen Torch 121  
Discotheque/Boom Box
Thunderclap (near)
120 Threshold of sensation begins around 120 dB
Stereos (over 100 watts) 110–125  
Symphony Orchestra
Power Saw (chainsaw)
Pneumatic Drill/Jackhammer
110 Regular exposure to sound over 100 dB of more than one minute risks permanent hearing loss.
Snowmobile 105  
Jet Flyover (1000 ft.) 103  
Electric Furnace Area
Garbage Truck/Cement Mixer
100 No more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure recommended for sounds between 90–100 dB.
Farm Tractor 98  
Newspaper Press 97  
Subway, Motorcycle (25 ft.) 88 Very annoying
Lawnmower, Food Blender
Recreational Vehicles, TV
85 dB is the level at which hearing damage (8 hrs.) begins
Diesel Truck (40 mph, 50 ft.) 84  
Average City Traffic
Garbage Disposal
80 Annoying; interferes with conversation; constant exposure may cause damage
Washing Machine 78  
Dishwasher 75  
Vacuum Cleaner, Hair Dryer 70 Intrusive; interferes with telephone conversation
Normal Conversation 50–65  
Quiet Office 50–60 Comfortable hearing levels are under 60 dB.
Refrigerator Humming 40  
Whisper 30 Very quiet
Broadcasting Studio 30  
Rustling Leaves 20 Just audible
Normal Breathing 10  

Since the sensitivity of the ear to sound is not the same for all frequencies, weighting or attenuating filters are included in the sound level meter’s circuits to simulate the ears' response. A noise level meter finds an instantaneous measurement of the noise present, but cannot measure the duration of the exposure. To measure the amount of noise a person is exposed to over a period of time, a "dosimeter" or an integrated sound level meter must be used. Sources for above include the American Medical Association and the Canadian Hearing Society of Ontario. Decibel table developed by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892. January 1990.

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Last Updated Date: 
June 7, 2010