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reviewed 9/26/2018

Volume levels

Learn about the sounds that can damage your ears

The damage sound causes to hearing depends on how loud it is and how long and how often you hear it. Learn more about the typical decibel (dB) levels of different sounds and how they might affect your hearing.

O dB:

The softest sound healthy ears can hear. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

10 dB:

Normal breathing. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

20 dB:

Mosquito, rustling leaves. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

30 dB:

Whispered voice. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

40 dB:

Refrigerator humming. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

50 dB:

Moderate rainfall. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

60 dB:

Clothes dryer, normal conversation. Noise at this level won't damage hearing, even after long exposure.

70 dB:

Noisy office, vacuum cleaner. Noise at this level is unlikely to damage hearing, even after long exposure.

80 dB:

Alarm clock, blender. Noise at this level is unlikely to damage hearing, even after long exposure.

85 dB:

Heavy city traffic. Lengthy or repeated exposure to noise at this level can eventually cause hearing loss.

90 dB:

Hair dryer, power mower. Lengthy or repeated exposure to noise at this level can eventually cause hearing loss.

95 dB:

Motorcycle. Lengthy or repeated exposure to noise at this level can eventually cause hearing loss.

100 dB:

Wood shop, snowmobile. Noise at this level is likely to damage hearing, especially if you're exposed to it for longer than 15 minutes.

105 dB:

MP3 player at maximum volume. Regular exposure of more than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

110 dB:

Chainsaw, symphony orchestra. Regular exposure of more than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

115 dB:

Car horn. Regular exposure of more than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

120 dB:

Ambulance siren, thunderclap, rock concert. Regular exposure of less than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

125 dB:

Car stereo (factory installed). Regular exposure of less than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

130 dB:

Jackhammer. Regular exposure of less than one minute can cause permanent hearing loss.

140 dB:

Firearms. Sounds at this level can cause immediate hearing loss after just one exposure.

150 dB:

Fireworks 3 feet away, jet engine at takeoff. Sounds at and above this level can cause immediate hearing loss after just one exposure.

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. Avoid loud sounds, turn down the volume, wear earplugs that fit into the ear and wear earmuffs that fit over both ears.

How to tell if it's too loud:

  • You have to raise your voice to be heard
  • You can't hear someone three feet away from you
  • Speech sounds muffled or dull after you leave a noisy area
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears after noise exposure

Sources: American Academy of Audiology; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

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