It’s not easy to know when sound is too loud. That is because it’s not just about how loud a sound is. “Too loud” is a combination of the volume of the sound and how long one is exposed to it. The louder a sound is, the shorter the permissible length of exposure.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Generally, exposure to a sound at 85 dB over 8 hours is acceptable. For every three dB increase in the sound, the acceptable time is cut in half. For example if the volume is 88 dB, it is safe for 4 hours, 91 dB is safe for 2 hours, 94 dB for 1 hour, etc.
Here is a guide to help you determine the volume of some common sounds.
60 dB—Normal conversations or dishwashers
80 dB—Alarm clocks
90 dB—Hair dryers, blenders, and lawnmowers
100 dB—MP3 players at full volume
110 dB—Concerts, car racing, and sporting events
120 dB—Jet planes at take off
130 dB—Ambulances and fire engine sirens
140 dB—Gun shots, fireworks, and custom car stereos at full volume
Here are few rules to go by. You know a the sound is too loud if; you have to shout over the background noise to be heard, if the volume actually causes pain, if the noise makes your ears ring or if you have decreased or muffled hearing after being exposed to the sound.
There are three ways to protect your hearing; use earplugs or muffs, move away from the source of the sound or turn the volume down when using a music player. Never use a music player to cover up the sound of another unwanted sound such as the lawn mower. Use ear plugs or noise canceling plugs to decrease the volume of the unwanted noise.
When someone is exposed to loud sounds it is important to have regular hearing evaluations by an audiologist. If you or a loved one is exposed to loud sound, have a baseline hearing evaluation. Why wait?