Harmful Noise Levels

Overview

The effects of noise on hearing vary among people. Some people's ears are more sensitive to loud sounds, especially at certain frequencies. But any sound that is loud enough and lasts long enough can damage hearing and lead to hearing loss.

In general, sounds above 85 decibels (dB) are harmful. But this depends on how long and how often you are exposed to the sound and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

Here are examples of noises that produce levels above 85 decibels:

  • Heavy traffic, window air conditioner, noisy restaurant, power lawn mower
  • Subway, shouted conversation
  • ATV, motorcycle
  • School dance
  • Chainsaw, leaf blower, snowmobile
  • Sports crowd, rock concert, loud symphony
  • Car races
  • Gunshot, siren at 100 feet

How to know when noise levels may be harmful

An easy way to be more aware of possibly 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 trouble 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 noise.

Credits

Current as of: September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Charles M. Myer III MD - Otolaryngology