- What Decibel Is Hearing Safe
- Dangerous And Safe Decibel Levels
- How To Measure A Safe Decibel Level
- Protecting Your Hearing
4.1 Wear hearing protection
4.2 Don't listen to loud sounds for too long
- Other Useful Tips For Safe Listening
- Protect Your Hearing Using Decibel Pro App
From tiny birds chirping to music concerts and construction equipment, sound can be very diverse. But it can also be harmful.
Loud sounds can harm your hearing and, in some cases, even cause hearing loss. To prevent hearing impairment and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), you should be aware of what decibel level is safe for your hearing and monitor your daily exposure.
In this article, we’re going to look into what decibel levels are hearing safe and what you can do to measure noise and protect your hearing.
What Decibel Is Hearing Safe?
To understand what decibel is hearing safe, let’s look at a few of the available recommendations on this topic.
The maximum exposure limits recommended by organizations like OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and NIOSH (the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) are 90 dBA and, respectively, 85 dBA. These figures are what you will usually see provided as an answer to the question ‘What decibel is hearing safe?’.
However, these maximum noise levels apply to work environments and are the limits from which employers are mandated to provide hearing protection for workers.
For any other environments, such as at home or in public spaces, the general recommended noise exposure limit is 70 dB.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, keeping noise exposure under this maximum 70 dB level can help you prevent hearing loss over a lifetime, and exposure to more than 70 decibels is not hearing safe.
Noise levels above 70 dB can cause tinnitus, hearing damage, or noise-induced hearing loss.
Another important aspect to consider when determining what decibel is hearing safe is the total noise dose. The NIOSH and OSHA standards represent an 8-hour average, and the EPA recommended level is a 24-hour average. What this means is that if you are exposed to higher decibel levels for a shorter time, the exposure time must be cut accordingly.
In fact, because the decibel level is logarithmic, not linear, for every 5 additional decibels over the limit, the exposure time must be cut in half.
Dangerous and Safe Decibel Levels
As a general rule, the higher up it is on the decibel scale, the more dangerous a sound is to your hearing.
But, to determine what decibel levels are dangerous and what decibel levels are safe for hearing, we must take into account three main factors.
The first one is, of course, the sound level. How loud a sound determines how likely it is to affect your hearing. As mentioned, sounds over 70 dB can cause hearing damage, and sounds over 85 dB can lead to hearing loss.
The second factor is proximity. How close you are to a sound also determines how likely that sound is to affect your hearing. For instance, an explosion can reach decibel levels above 120 dB. But if you are standing 10 km away, this decibel level should be hearing safe because you are far away.
The third factor is exposure time. If you are exposed to a loud sound for a short period and balance that exposure out with quiet time, your hearing should be safe. However, if you are exposed to loud noise levels over a long period, your hearing may be damaged.
The rule of thumb is to limit exposure to sounds above 70 dB and avoid exposure to sounds above 85 dB as they can damage your hearing faster.
To get an idea of what decibel levels are dangerous or safe, here are the noise levels of some common, everyday sounds:
Sounds that are safe for hearing
- 70 dB: vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dishwasher
- 60 dB: normal conversation, clothes dryer
- 50 dB: refrigerator, moderate rainfall
- 40 dB: a stream, a quiet room
- 30 dB: quiet library
Loud sounds that can be dangerous after moderate exposure
- 90 dB: motorcycle, subway train
- 100 dB: tractor, factory machinery, leaf blower, snowblower
- 110 dB: music on earphones, chainsaw
- 120 dB: rock concert
Extremely loud sounds that can cause pain and immediate hearing damage
- 120 dB: jet plane taking off, siren
- 130 dB: jackhammer
- 140 dB: gunshot without suppression
- 150 dB: fireworks at 3 feet, shotgun
How to Measure a Safe Decibel Level
It is important to know what decibel is hearing safe but also to be aware when you may be exposed to loud sounds that can lead to hearing impairment. To do this, you should monitor noise levels in common environments such as your workplace and your home.
You can measure noise levels using a sound level meter or a sound level meter app. A sound meter app like Decibel Pro is more convenient as you can download it on your phone and use it anytime you need to.
Protecting Your Hearing
Loud noise can cause excessive vibrations and damage the cochlea or the hair cells inside your eardrum that are the fibers of the auditory nerve. This can lead to noise-induced hearing damage or hearing loss.
To protect your hearing, you should be mindful of the noise levels around you and take appropriate measures to limit or avoid too much exposure.
Wear hearing protection
Wearing hearing protection is one of the best ways you can keep your hearing safe when exposed to high decibel levels. There are plenty of options of earplugs and earmuffs you can choose from. If you want something that is more technologically advanced, you can choose noise-canceling headphones or electronic earmuffs that provide protection and hearing enhancement.
Don’t listen to loud sounds for too long
Whenever you listen to loud music, especially on your headphones, it’s easy to forget about protecting your hearing. However, one of the best rules you can apply is the 60/60 rule. That is listening with the volume level at no more than 60% for a period no longer than 60 minutes.
For other loud sounds like the ones generated by guns or lawnmowers, consider wearing hearing protection and limiting the time you are exposed to the noise, and taking a break from it every 15 minutes.
Other Useful Tips for Safe Listening
Here are a few other tips for safe listening:
- use noise-canceling earphones or headphones
- don’t turn up the volume to the maximum level
- use the automatic volume limiting settings on your headphones if you have them
- take regular breaks every hour for at least 10 minutes
- let your ears recover for at least 18 hours
- regularly test your hearing to identify any issues early on
Protect Your Hearing Using Decibel Pro App
Decibel Pro is a sound level meter app that makes it easy and convenient to measure noise levels and ensure that they are safe for your hearing. It comes with pre-calibrated measurements and also supports dBA and dBC measurements. Using Decibel Pro, you can know what decibel is hearing safe as it alerts you whenever noise levels exceed safe limits.
On top of this, Decibel Pro is a great tool for protecting your hearing health and preventing hearing damage as it also includes a reliable hearing test. To use it, all you have to do is download it on your iPhone or iPad.
To learn more about the Decibel Pro app, click here.