Dangerous Decibels: How Loud Is Too Loud?

Hearing can be damaged not just by the intensity and level of noise but also by how long one is exposed. Sorting out what is too loud and how long is too long is essential to understanding long-term hearing health.

Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). Your ears can handle up to 80 dB with no consequences, but sounds over 80 dB can be dangerous depending upon how long you are exposed. A grandmother in the U.K. was recently recorded snoring at 111.6 decibels – eight decibels louder than the roar of a low-flying jet and between 51.6-31.6 louder than the average snore (typically 60-80 dB). The louder the sound, for example this grandmother’s snoring, the less time you can listen to it before it begins damaging your hearing. For instance, it would take approximately eight hours of exposure to an 85 dB noise for ear damage to occur. Decibels are a logarithmic scale, which means an increase of just three dB means the sound is actually twice as powerful (twice the perceived volume is closer to 10 dB). And that means it will take half as long to damage your hearing. So an 88 dB sound will damage your ears in only four hours, a 91 dB sound will cause damage in two hours, and so on.

Decibel hearing exposure chart

So how do you determine an unsafe sound level?

  • You have to raise your voice or shout to be heard.
  • It’s hard to hear someone at arm’s length from you.
  • You have pain, ringing, or buzzing in your ears after exposure.
  • Normal speech sounds muffled or dull after exposure.

Hearing loss can happen quickly or slowly without you noticing, and it can happen anywhere – using power tools, listening to music, mowing the lawns, or at a concert – so make sure to consider this sound information!

sound-meterTo learn more about hearing loss (and snoring!) visit www.chiagoent.com or call             (773) 296.5500.

Content and images with help from: http://www.listenup.co.nz/parents-1-how-loud.html