By: Emily Wolski, MS, CCC-SLP
Noise happens all around us. But how much is too much?! We can measure loudness levels by using the unit “decibels” or dB. The World Health Organization recommends that any person does not exceed 40 hours of listening to anything 80 dB and over (75 dB for children) on personal listening devices per week. This is mainly for music and videos. There are other objects or events that make even LOUDER noises such as lawnmowers, jackhammers, sirens and even concerts. Think about how much less you should listen to in comparison to your music at those listening levels. The louder something is, the less time you can safely listen to it before you start to damage your hearing.
Chart of Noise Exposure
|Sound||Loudness Level (dB)||Max time of exposure without damage|
|Conversation||65-80 dB||Go ahead and spill the tea for as long as you’d like! Convos are safe (but always reduce yelling for your ears and your vocal folds!)|
|Motorcycle||91 dB||2 hours|
|Listening with earphones||100 dB||15 minutes|
|Rock Concert||112 dB||1 minute|
|Siren||120 dB||Less than 30 SECONDS|
Too much exposure can lead to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. In many cases, you might not even know you are damaging your ear since it can be a slow progression. Usually, you will not feel the effects of the damage you are causing now until much later. You may have already been affected by noise-induced hearing loss if you can think of noises that used to bother you that now don’t or you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves. Good news is, there are ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss or stop the progression:
- 1. Ear plugs or earphones
- 2. Earmuffs
- 3. Take intermittent breaks from loud noise
- 4. Turn down the volume (do you REALLY need to listen to that SO loud?!)
How can I measure loudness levels?
You can download any decibel meter on your phone! Type in “sound meter” or “decibel meter” in the search bar of your app store and many free ones should pop up.
Apple watches come with a pre-downloaded application called “Noise”. Click on the icon and it will tell you how many decibels the environment around you is AND if long term exposure is OK.
The CDC has a great website for children and adults to explore. You can select a sound and see how much decibels (loudness levels) it is giving off. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/infographic/
The ASHA website has some great information as well: https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/loud-noise-dangers/#protecting