How loud is too loud?

How loud is too loud?
Even if you live in a quiet suburban area, you are still subject to noise pollution. I live in a country town about 45 minutes out of the capital city. There are only about 4,000 residents in 1,500 or so homes. Yet the traffic heading to the city on the major road 1km from our place can be heard quite clearly and can be intrusive when the wind is blowing in our direction. In addition, are area is growing so during weekdays there is the constant noise of building, trucks, earthmoving and so on. On weekends, the suburban noises include the lawn mowing and other garden care equipment, home handy man builders, kids playing and dogs barking.

If you live in a major city then urban or suburban noises are closer to you, multiplied by the surrounding neighbours. There is peak hour traffic, road works, buses, trams and trains, delivery trucks and often aeroplanes overhead. (You know sometimes it is good to be deaf just to miss out on this cacophony of sound.)

There is no doubt we live in a noisy world. But how loud is too loud? Recently Hear the World(1) visited major cities in the USA and Europe to discover the source of and measure the level of noise. Their research found that many cities recorded sounds of up to 100 dcbls – a level which can be damaging to hearing.

If you live or work in New York then expect noise. Specific places such Broadway, Penn Station or 42nd Street register as extremely loud places. I’m sure all cities have their noisy spots and the same research found this was true of Chicago, St Louis and Atlanta and in Europe, London, Berlin and Paris.
Normal speech is in the range of 40-60dcbls. Every 10 dcbls is 100% increase in volume

Hearing World says “For speakers 3 feet apart, the following rule of thumb applies:

  • For noises up to 70 dB, it is possible to hold a conversation at normal volume.

  • At 90 dB, it is possible to hear each other with voices raised.

  • At 100 dB, it is only possible to hear each other when shouting loudly.

  • From 105 dB onwards, it is no longer possible to understand anything.”

We can’t get away from noise (in fact who would want to) but we can monitor the noise in our environment and take steps to protect our hearing. Our every day lives are full of sound and regular exposure to sounds over 80 dcbls can have a long term detriment to hearing. Knowing how loud is too loud can help us avoid hearing loss.

(1) Reference: the Hear the World Sound Map -

You Should Also Read:
Health effects from noise
Hearing and Health
Noises we hate to hear

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