How loud is too loud?

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We all know that exposure to loud noises is a leading cause of hearing loss.  But just how loud is too loud?

Experts agree that continued exposure to noise above 85 dB over time, will cause hearing loss. To know if a sound is loud enough to damage your ears, it is important to know both the loudness level (measured in decibels, dB) and the length of exposure to the sound. In general, the louder the noise, the less time required before hearing loss will occur. The Ontario Ministry of Labour, mandates that maximum exposure time at 85 dB is 8 hours. (At 110 dB, the maximum exposure time is one minute and 29 seconds). They refer to noise induced hearing loss as “a serious occupational illness”.  According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), it resulted in an estimated $100 million in compensation costs being paid between 1995 and 2004. If you must be exposed to noise, it is recommended that you limit the exposure time and/or wear hearing protection.

Both the amount of noise and the length of time you are exposed to the noise determine its ability to damage your hearing. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB).  Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially hazardous. The noise chart below gives an idea of average decibel levels for everyday sounds around you.

Painful:

·        150 dB = rock music peak

·        140 dB = firearms, air raid siren, jet engine

·        130 dB = jackhammer

·        120 dB = jet plane take-off, amplified rock music at 4-6 ft., car stereo, band practice

Extremely loud:

·        110 dB = rock music, model airplane

·        106 dB = timpani and bass drum rolls

·        100 dB = snowmobile, chain saw, pneumatic drill

·        90 dB = lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic, subway

Very loud:

·        80 dB = alarm clock, busy street

·        70 dB = busy traffic, vacuum cleaner

·        60 dB = conversation, dishwasher

Moderate:

·        50 dB = moderate rainfall

·        40 dB = quiet room

Faint:

·        30 dB = whisper, quiet library

Warning Signs of Hazardous Noise

  • You must raise your voice to be heard
  • You can’t hear someone two feet away from you
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after leaving a   noise area
  • You have pain or ringing on your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise.
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