Measuring Noise: Loudness Comparison Chart in Decibels

Wow, that is LOUD! But how loud? Knowing the level of sound or noise is important if you are trying solve the issue of soundproofing it for audio recording work or just to maintain a healthy environment for people.

If you want or need to know the level of noise, here is a handy chart with some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources. It will help you understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect the human, and even animal, hearing.

Environmental Noise

Weakest sound heard

0dB

Whisper Quiet Library at 6′

30dB

Normal conversation at 3′

60-65dB

Telephone dial tone

80dB

City Traffic (inside car)

85dB

Train whistle at 500′, Truck Traffic

90dB

Jackhammer at 50′

95dB

Subway train at 200′

95dB

Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss

90 – 95dB

Hand Drill

98dB

Power mower at 3′

107dB

Snowmobile, Motorcycle

100dB

Power saw at 3′

110dB

Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert

115dB

Pain begins

125dB

Pneumatic riveter at 4′

125dB

Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage – Loudest recommended exposure WITH hearing protection

140dB

Jet engine at 100′

140dB

12 Gauge Shotgun Blast

165dB

Death of hearing tissue

180dB

Loudest sound possible

194dB

 

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure

Hours per day

Sound level

8

90dB

6

92dB

4

95dB

3

97dB

2

100dB

1.5

102dB

1

105dB

.5

110dB

.25 or less

115dB

 

NIOSH Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure

Hours per day

Sound level

8

85dBA

6

86dBA

4

88dBA

3

89dBA

2

90dBA

1.5

92dBA

1

94dBA

.5

97dBA

.25 or less

100dBA

0

112dBA

 

Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level

Imperceptible Change

1dB

Barely Perceptible Change

3dB

Clearly Noticeable Change

5dB

About Twice as Loud

10dB

About Four Times as Loud

20dB

Sound Levels of Music

Normal piano practice

60 -70dB

Fortissimo Singer, 3′

70dB

Chamber music, small auditorium

75 – 85dB

Piano Fortissimo

84 – 103dB

Violin

82 – 92dB

Cello

85 -111dB

Oboe

95-112dB

Flute

92 -103dB

Piccolo

90 -106dB

Clarinet

85 – 114dB

French horn

90 – 106dB

Trombone

85 – 114dB

Tympani & bass drum

106dB

Walkman on 5/10

94dB

Symphonic music peak

120 – 137dB

Amplifier, rock, 4-6′

120dB

Rock music peak

150dB

NOTES:

  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occurred.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.
  • Recent NIOSH studies of sound levels from weapons fires have shown that they may range from a low of 144 dB SPL for small caliber weapons such as a 0.22 caliber rifle to as high as a 172 dB SPL for a 0.357 caliber revolver. Double ear protection is recommended for shooters, combining soft, insertable ear plugs and external ear muffs.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin , M.Sc., Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada. There were some conflicting readings and, in many cases, authors did not specify at what distance the readings were taken or what the musician was actually playing. In general, when there were several readings, the higher one was chosen.

If you are trying to keep noise out, there are sound booths and other products that can help. But, nothing is 100% soundproof.

Additional Resources

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)  -http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/

American Tinnitus Association Information and help for those with tinnitus

Hear Tomorrow The Hearing Conservation Workshop

H.E.A.R. Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers

American Tinnitus Association for musicians and music lovers

Turn It to the Left from the American Academy of Audiology

Listen to Your Buds from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Binge Listening: Is exposure to leisure noise causing hearing loss in young Australians? [pdf] report from Australian Hearing, National Acoustic Laboratories

Hearing Aids and Music: Interview with Marshall Chasin, AuD from the American Academy of Audiology

Safe Listening Resources from the National Hearing Conservation Association

OSHA Noise and Hearing Conservation


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