Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Harmful Noise Levels - Topic Overview

The effects of noise on hearing vary among people. Some people's ears are more sensitive to loud sounds, especially at certain frequencies. (Frequency means how low or high a tone is.) But any sound that is loud enough and lasts long enough can damage hearing and lead to hearing loss.

A sound's loudness is measured in decibels (dB). Normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB. In general, sounds above 85 are harmful, depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

Following is a table of the decibel level of a number of sounds.

Noise levels
Noise Average decibels (dB)
Leaves rustling, soft music, whisper 30
Average home noise 40
Normal conversation, background music 60
Office noise, inside car at 60 mph 70
Vacuum cleaner, average radio 75
Heavy traffic, window air conditioner, noisy restaurant, power lawn mower

80-89 (sounds above 85 dB are harmful)

Subway, shouted conversation 90-95
Boom box, ATV, motorcycle 96-100
School dance 101-105
Chainsaw, leaf blower, snowmobile 106-115
Sports crowd, rock concert, loud symphony 120-129
Stock car races 130
Gun shot, siren at 100 feet 140

As loudness increases, the amount of time you can hear the sound before damage occurs decreases. Hearing protectors reduce the loudness of sound reaching the ears, making it possible to listen to louder sounds for a longer time.

Preventing damage to your hearing

An easy way to become aware of potentially harmful noise is to pay attention to warning signs that a sound might be damaging to your hearing. A sound may be harmful if:

  • You have difficulty talking or hearing others talk over the sound.
  • The sound makes your ears hurt.
  • Your ears are ringing after hearing the sound.
  • Other sounds seem muffled after you leave an area where there is loud sound.

Most cases of noise-induced hearing loss are caused by repeated exposure to moderate levels of noise over many years, not by a few cases of very loud noise. Wearing hearing protectors can help prevent damage from both moderate and loud noise.

If your workplace has harmful noise levels, plan ahead and wear hearing protection. People who may be regularly exposed to harmful noise because of their jobs include:

  • Those who work with loud machines, vehicles, or power tools, such as construction workers, factory workers, farmers, truck drivers, mechanics, or airport ground crew workers.
  • Military personnel.
  • Police officers and firefighters.
  • Musicians.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
1
Next Article:

Harmful Noise Levels Topics

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
 
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
 
senior man
Article
boy hits soccer ball with head
Slideshow
 
red and white swirl
Article
marijuana plant
ARTICLE
 
brain illustration stroke
Slideshow
nerve damage
Slideshow
 
Alzheimers Overview
Slideshow
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix
Quiz