Sunday, March 20, 2011

Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, that help one to understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise
Weakest sound heard0dB
Whisper Quiet Library30dB
Normal conversation (3-5')60-70dB
Telephone dial tone80dB
City Traffic (inside car)85dB
Train whistle at 500', Truck Traffic90dB
Subway train at 200'95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss90 - 95dB
Power mower at 3'107dB
Snowmobile, Motorcycle100dB
Power saw at 3'110dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert115dB
Pain begins125dB
Pneumatic riveter at 4'125dB
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage - Loudest recommended exposure WITHhearing protection140dB
Jet engine at 100', Gun Blast140dB
Death of hearing tissue180dB
Loudest sound possible194dB

OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per daySound level
.25 or less115dB

Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
Imperceptible Change1dB
 Barely Perceptible Change3dB
Clearly Noticeable Change5dB
About Twice as Loud10dB
About Four Times as Loud20dB

Sound Levels of Music
Normal piano practice60 -70dB
Fortissimo Singer, 3'70dB
Chamber music, small auditorium75 - 85dB
Piano Fortissimo84 - 103dB
Violin82 - 92dB
Cello85 -111dB
Flute 92 -103dB
Piccolo90 -106dB
Clarinet85 - 114dB
French horn90 - 106dB
Trombone85 - 114dB
Tympani & bass drum106dB
Walkman on 5/1094dB
Symphonic music peak120 - 137dB
Amplifier rock, 4-6'120dB
Rock music peak150dB

  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occurred.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.

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