Decibels & Damagedial-graphic

Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after a lengthy exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However extended or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (approximately the level of a vacuum cleaner) can cause hearing loss.

The table below, the graphic and the poster to the side give examples of various everyday sounds and their typical  loudness levels in decibels. The table shows the length of time we can safely be exposed to these sounds before permanent damage is likely to occur.

Noise Source Decibel Level (dB) How long can you listen without protection?
Jet take off 130 0 minutes
Ambulance siren 109 Less than 2 minutes
Personal music player at maximum volume 106 3.75 minutes
Pop/Rock concert 103 7.5 minutes
Riding a motorcycle 97 30 minutes
Using an electric drill 94 1 hour

Most governments regulate noise exposure for safety reasons and the most commonly used maximum acceptable noise exposure level is 85 decibels over eight hours (a typical working day).
Want to know more about loud sounds?

How loud is too loud? Find out from the noise simulator here.

For a more in-depth look at loud sounds, visit the NOISE database which brings together hundreds of noise measurements from around the world.