Noise: How Loud Is It?

Sound is all around. The May/June 1997 issue of Safe and Healthy Workplace (published by ELB & Associates) contained an article from the most recent edition of Baseline, a hearing conservation newsletter published by the National Hearing Conservation Association (http://www.globaldialog.com/~nhca/index.html) which provided a list of some common workplace and recreational sounds. Keep in mind that noise-induced hearing loss results from a combination of high sound levels and extended periods of exposure to sounds above 80 to 85 dBA. Protect your hearing when involved with these types of activities.

Construction

Rock Drilling..............up to 115 dBA
Chain saw operations.......up to 125 dBA
Abrasive blasting..........105 - 110 dBA
Heavy equipment operation..95 - 110 dBA
Demolition.................up to 117 dBA
Needle guns................up to 112 dBA
Pneumatic chip hammer......103 - 113 dBA
Jack hammer................102 - 111 dBA
Concrete joint cutter......99 - 102 dBA
Skilsaw....................88 - 102 dBA
Stud welder................101 dBA
Bulldozer..................93 - 96 dBA
Earth tamper...............90 - 96 dBA
Crane......................90 - 96 dBA
Hammer.....................87 - 95 dBA
Gradeall...................87 - 94 dBA
Front-end loader...........86 - 94 dBA
Backhoe....................84 - 93 dBA
The noise levels change with distance from the source and with operation mode. The noise from a gradeall earthmover is 94 decibels from 10 feet away. The noise is only 82 decibels if you are 70 feet away. A crane lifting a load can make 96 decibels of noise; at rest, it may make less than 80 decibels.

Railroad

Locomotive Engineers.......1/3 w/TWA>87 dBA
Horn.......................96 dBA minimum 100 feet

Music

Clubs and discos...........91 - 96 dBA +
Dance floor................85 - 100 dBA
At the bar.................90 dBA or more
Personal stereo systems....60 - 114 dBA
Rock concerts..............100 dBA or more average
Car stereos................up to 154 dBA in the car
Home stereo................80 - 115 dBA

General Industry

Punch press................110 dBA
Textile Loom...............108 dBA
Lathe......................81 dBA

Firearms

.22 caliber rifle..........132 - 139 dB peak sound pressure level (PSPL)
Mauser pistols.............163 - 170 dB PSPL
12-gauge shotguns..........150 - 165 dB PSPL
Shotguns...................163 - 172 dB PSPL
Rifles.....................143 - 170 dB PSPL
Other Firearms.............100 - 175 dB PSPL
Always use hearing protectors when hunting or target shooting. Although most noise-induced hearing loss results from excess noise exposure over a period of time, a single exposure to a very loud noise (like gunfire) can cause permanent haring loss.

Farming

Tractor....................93 - 103 dBA
Grain dryers...............88 - 110 dBA @ 20 feet
Combines...................80 dBA idle inside to 105 dBA full throttle outside
Chain saws.................(see House and Garden)
Pig squeals................115 dBA (single squeal)
Feeding breeders...........85 - 105 dBA
Feeding growers............90 - 112 dBA
Feeding weaners............90 - 107 dBA
Corn grinding..............93 - 97 dBA
Orchard sprayer............85 - 106 dBA

House and Garden

Leaf blower................103 dBA
Gasoline-powered blower....up to 110 - 112 dBA
Chain saw..................up to 116 dBA (during cutting)
                           91 - 98 dBA @ idle
Mower......................95 - 120 dBA
Power saw..................95 - 115 dBA
Router.....................85 - 110 dBA
Food blender...............88 dBA
Vacuum cleaner.............74 dBA
Average home interior......50 dBA
Hearing hazards also exist at home - saws, drills, power equipment, lawn mowers, leaf or snow blowers and hedge trimmers can all expose you to excess noise. Use hearing protection at home when operating noisy equipment.

Environmental Sounds

Heavy traffic..............78 dBA
Thunder clap...............120 dB
Whisper at 5 feet..........30 dB
Leaves rustling in breeze..20 dB

Miscellaneous Other

Toy pistols................150 - 160 dB PSPL
Jazzercize class...........90 - 92 dBA
Sporting events............95 - 100 dBA
Referee whistles...........103 - 107 dBA
Motorcycle.................80 - 115 dBA
Ambulance siren............120 dBA
Private aircraft...........80 - 110 dBA
Fishing (powerboat)........60 - 115 dBA
Apollo liftoff.............188 dBA

The best way to protect against hearing loss in the future is to protect your hearing today and every day. Remember to follow your company's hearing conservation program and use hearing protection for off-the job hearing hazards, too. When purchasing appliances, tools or equipment, look for noise-reduced models. A little safety sense can help save one of your most valuable senses - your hearing.


Thanks to Ken Hughes for bringing this article to everybody's attention.
Dedicated to the members of the SAFETY LIST, which is run by Ralph Stuart of the University of Vermont

Last Updated July 15, 1997
webmaster: pburnett@garlic.com