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How Loud is Too Loud?

How Loud is Too Loud?

Every day we are continually listening to various sounds in our environment, such as television, household appliances, and traffic, to name a few. Usually, these sounds are at safe levels and don’t cause damage to our hearing. But when too loud, even for a brief period, they can be harmful.

A healthy human ear can hear frequencies ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. The loudness of these frequencies are measured in decibels (dB). The average human ear can perceive sound from 0 to around 120-130dB.  Individuals with excellent hearing can recognize sounds as low as -15dB.

The duration for which one is engrossed in loud noise impacts how much damage it will cause to their hearing. Interestingly, what we hear daily may be louder than we think. Let’s take a look at some familiar scenarios:

  • Movie theatre
    • 74-104dB
  • Concerts
    • 94-110dB
  • Sirens
    • 110-129dB
  • Thunder
    • 120dB
  • Gunshot
    • 140-190dB
  • Fireworks
    • 140-160dB


The distance from the source and the duration of exposure are the two most important factors that determine damage to the ear. The louder the source, the more the ear will deteriorate, and the faster impairment will occur.

To simplify, we have tabulated recommended listening periods for various sound pressures:

Decibels

Duration

85dB

Few hours

100dB

14 minutes

110dB

2 minutes


Loud noise is not only an occupational hazard today but also causes a threat to our daily lives. Roughly 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and about 10 million of the cases can be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss. It is therefore immensely important to raise awareness and to educate people about the hazards of excessive noise.

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