How much noise is safe?

Noise exposure can be dangerous to your hearing. Loud noise above 120 decibels (dB) can cause immediate harm to your ears.

Sounds at these levels cause pain and ear injury:

Explosion – 140dB

Nearby jet engine – 130dB

Nearby siren – 120dB

Sounds at these levels can cause hearing loss within 2 to 15 minutes:

Loud music (recorded or live) – 110dB

Train, car horn, large sporting event – 100dB

Sounds at these levels can annoy and stress you:

Motorcycle, lawnmower – 95dB (can damage your hearing after 50 minutes)

Noisy factory, busy restaurant – 85dB (can damage your hearing after 2 hours)

Washing machine, dishwasher – 70dB

Sounds at these levels typically do not damage your hearing:

Normal conversation, air conditioning – 60dB

Refrigerator – 40dB

Whisper – 30dB

Normal breathing – 10dB

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019)

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FAQs about safe noise levels

The safe noise level is typically considered to be below 85 decibels (dB) for extended periods of time.
Prolonged loud noise exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and other hearing-related issues.
To protect yourself from loud noise, you can use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, keep the volume down on personal devices, and limit your time in noisy environments.
Symptoms of hearing damage from loud noise can include ringing in the ears, difficulty understanding speech, and a decrease in overall hearing ability.
Once your hearing is damaged by loud noise it is typically permanent and cannot be reversed. The best way to protect your hearing is to prevent damage in the first place by avoiding excessively loud noises and using protective gear when necessary.

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