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How Loud Is Too Loud; Understanding dB [Infographic]

How loud is too loud? Check out this infographic to take a look at some of the loudest sounds on earth–KISS concerts included–and their effect on your hearing.

The above infographic, courtesy of SonicElectronix, outlines what dB levels lead to hearing loss, what some of the loudest sounds on earth are, and the signs of hearing loss. Want to read more about dB levels and see examples of things at the loud and soft end of the scale? Check out this chart of sound pressure levels courtesy of Wikipedia.

How Loud Is Too Loud [via Daily Infographic]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/11/11

Comments (14)

  1. Dan

    Your graphic shows the 3 dB exchange rate, i.e. the permissible exposure is reduced to one-half for every 3 dB increase in the time weighted average of the noise. This is not used in the US. We use the 5 dB exchange rate, where the permissible exposure is halved for every 5 dB increase in the time weighted average.

  2. Dan

    I should have added for completeness sake that the 5 dB exchange rate is the OSHA standard in the US. Other organizations concerned with the protection of worker’s health, including the ACGIH and the NIOSH, have recommended the 3 dB exchange rate since it is more conservative.

  3. Roger

    I found this article very informative and worth reading. Thank you.

  4. techandlife

    Ah yes, the 130 dB Led Zeppelin rock concert (1972). I remember it well. Sitting about 10 rows back from a massive bank of speakers. Thankfully, my hearing’s still just about okay.

  5. MJ

    This is really worth reading, thanks for the info.

  6. David Worl

    Please give examples of common sounds in the 85db and above range. Those are the ones we most frequently encounter that are injurious.

    Why does the US Department of Health take no action to protect the public, especially at concerts, on airplanes and at racetracks?

  7. Luciano

    Very interesting facts, does anybody know how to properly protect from high db sounds?

  8. Christian K

    Distance form the sound source is an important factor in the DB measurement. I am curious at what distance these sound estimates/measurements are.

    @Luciano – protect starts with simple earplugs. You can buy the cheap kind, which can easily give -20dB attenuation (reduction) or more. The problem is that the attenuation generally isn’t even across the frequency spectrum , and hence things just don’t sound that good.

    Best bet – get molds of your ears, then send away for a set of custom earplugs. In the US, the entire process will probably set you back about $200, but it is so worth it. There is no cure, or remedy of tinnitus that I am aware of. Once you screw up your ears, like i did, you have to live with it.

  9. Paul

    Speaking from the perspective of a UK-based H&S professional, the infographic is very interesting but doesn’t distinguish between average dB(A) exposure and peak dB(C) exposure. The two impact on hearing loss differently – in the UK employers are required to take corrective action if employees are exposed to 80-85 dB(A) and/or 135-137 dB(C), and not to exceed 87 dB(A) and 140 dB(C).

    @David Worl: 85 dB is roughly the equivalent of traffic noise from cars, 90 dB the noise from trucks, and 95 dB the noise from a passing train. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t conduct a conversion in a normal voice standing 2 metres (~6 ft) from the other person, the environment is too noisy and prolonged exposure without protection will lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

    @Luciano: the best protection is not to expose yourself to them :) Failing that the most common type of personal protection is in-ear plugs of varying sorts, but it’s better by far to tackle the noise at source and reduce it for everyone (insulation, isolation etc)

  10. iT

    How do you turn your ears off temporary? (away from people nagging.. :p )

  11. Eric

    Great infographic, but fish do have ears.
    Not external, but they do have internal ear structures.

  12. David

    I’d like to find an economical sound meter that I could take to concerts, movies, and other venues. I think we have a negative feedback loop going, where so many people’s hearing has been damaged by our loud, noisy environment that venues are cranking up the volume (instead of offering captioning), thereby exacerbating the problem.

    Ear plugs make for a lousy solution for someone listening to too loud entertainment. The hearing protection knocks out much more of the high frequencies, making for a distorted hearing experience.

  13. Rick

    I read this article, and didn’t find much useful info, although it did humor me…my pro audio friends would turn their nose up at the music info, because a PRO soundperson knows how to use proper equalization so it doesn’t hurt the ears at louder (reasonable) volumes! This article leaves much to question, and tells half the story, in my opinion.

    The title of the article is :’How loud is TOO LOUD’. (sorry, I turned the volume up!) And one comment above was to give relevant examples of everyday life. Great comment. (you could easily Google dB charts that may answer your question, David W. , hope that helps!) I can’t remember all practical examples, I think that I remember a standard vacuum cleaner being about 70-75dB, freeway traffic noise was 75-80, and normal 2 person conversation @ 2-3 feet away being 65ish..it’s been a while for me to state exact numbers, but check it out for yourself on the web, but you get the idea.

    And David W. brings up the relevancy issue, which I have been concerned for family members, friends, and others that have devices like Ipods and earbuds. These are great products, but if used improperly can , and will cause permanent hearing damage….more or less what some people have been blasting music in their car stereo!

    This article , if it did anything, was to raise awareness of loud . David, you are correct most dB meters are pricey, but an economical (cheap) d/B meter can be found at your local Radio Shack…not the best, but it fits your question, and what you wanted. I think they are around $100 or less, a fraction of real quality Db meter, which you do not need! To all: educate & protect yourself~Peace, Rick

  14. Erik

    @David

    You can actually download apps, a large number of them free, for most smartphones that can make them act as an “economical sound meter”.

    Earplugs are an option. They do make molded earplugs with small canals designed for musicians to help protect their hearing. They’re not cheap but they’re not prohibitively expensive either considering how much they help.

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