Sound Levels

Sound levels above 80dB can cause hearing loss if exposure is long

Example Sounds

Noise Level (dB)

Impact

Unprotected

Protected

Alarm clock (1/2 metre)
Hair dryer

80db

Annoying

8 hours

Unlimited

Busy office
Noisy restaurant
Main road traffic

70dB

Difficult to concentrate

Unlimited

Unlimited

Conversational speech
Dishwasher rinse cycle
Air-conditioning unit

60dB

Intrusive

Unlimited

Unlimited

Light traffic (cars at 30 metres)

50dB

Quiet

 

 

Living room
Bedroom
Quiet office

40dB

 

 

 

Library

30dB

 

 

 

Broadcasting studio
Rustling leaves
Whisper

30dB

 

 

 

Just Audible

10dB

 

 

 

Near total silence

0dB

 

 

 

 

Any exposure to 140dB+ sound will cause immediate hearing damage.

Example Sounds

Noise Level (dB)

Impact

Unprotected

Protected

Thunderclap

130db

Painful

1.5 minutes

15 minutes

Loud Rock Concert
Jet at takeoff (60 metres)
Car horn at 1 metre

120dB

Threshold of Pain

2 minutes

1 hour

Nightclub/disco
Pile driver

110dB

Extremely Loud

3 minutes

2 hours

MP3 portable music player
Fireworks
Classical concert - peak level

100dB

Very loud

15 minutes

8 hours

Pub
Busy city-centre traffic
Speeding Lorry
Petrol lawnmower

90dB

Very annoying

2 hours

64 hours

 

Noise Levels and Exposure Times

Example Sounds

Noise Level (dB)

Impact

Unprotected

Protected

Space Shuttle Launch pad

180db

Irreversible hearing loss

None

No Tolerance

Airbag in car

170dB

 

None

No Tolerance

Jet takeoff with afterburner on carrier deck
Air raid siren at 1 metre

140dB

Painfully loud

 

3 minutes

 

Note: the figures in the above table are approximate.

Further Resources:

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