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Decibel (dB) Comparisons

Common Sounds

This decibel (dBA) table compares some common sounds and shows how they rank in potential harm to hearing. In many industries, workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels. This is particularly true in the construction, lumber, mining, steel and textile industries.

SOUND NOISE LEVEL (dBA) EFFECT
Jet Engines (Near)140
Shotgun Firing130
Jet Takeoff (100-200 Ft.)130
Rock Concert (Varies)110-140Threshold of pain (125 dB)
Oxygen Torch121
Discotheque/Boom Box120Threshold of sensation (120 dB)
Thunderclap (Near)120
Stereo (Over 100 Watts)110-125
Symphony Orchestra110Regular exposure of more than 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss (over 100 dB)
Power Saw (Chain Saw)110
Jackhammer110
Snowmobile105
Jet Fly-over (1000 Ft.)103
Electric Furnace Area100No more than 15 minutes of unprotected exposure recommended (90-100 dB)
Garbage Truck/Cement Mixer100
Farm Tractor98
Newspaper Press97
Subway, Motorcycle (25 Ft)88
Very annoying
Lawnmower, Food Blender85-90Level at which hearing damage begins after 8 hours (85dB)
Recreational Vehicles, TV70-90
Diesel Truck (40 Mph, 50 Ft.)84
Average City Traffic Noise80Annoying; interferes with conversation; constant exposure may cause damage
Garbage Disposal80
Washing Machine78
Dishwasher75
Vacuum Cleaner70Intrusive; interferes with telephone conversation
Hair Dryer70
Normal Conversation50-65
Quiet Office50-60Comfortable (under 60 dB)
Refrigerator Humming40
Whisper30Very quiet
Broadcasting Studio30
Rustling Leaves20Just audible
Normal Breathing10
0Threshold of normal hearing (1000-4000 Hz)

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 gives 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.