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Noise levels are measured in decibel, dB, with the lowest audible sound measured at 0 and the loudest sound possible reaching 194dB. The scale is logarithmic. An increase by 10 dB indicates a multiple increase in sound intensity or power.

A level of a normal conversation is about 65 dB. In most countries, a sustained noise level of 85 dB over eight hours a day in, for example, your work place is considered the upper safe noise limit in most countries. In the US, however, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, still operates on the basis of a safe upper noise level significantly higher at 90dB. Here are some common daily noise levels as listed by the San Francisco based HEAR (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers):

  • Weakest sound heard 0 dB
  • Normal conversation at 3to 5 ft. 60-70 dB
  • Telephone dial tone 80 dB
  • City traffic from inside your car 85 dB
  • Subway train at 200 ft. 95 dB
  • Power lawn mower 107 dB
  • Power saw 110 dB
  • Pain begins at 125 dB
  • Pneumatic riveter at 4 ft. 125 dB
  • Jet engine at take-off from 100 ft. 140 dB
  • Loudest sound that can occur 194 dB


Musical noise:

  • Normal piano practice 60-70 dB
  • Chamber music in small auditorium 75-85 dB
  • Piano fortissimo 92-95 dB
  • Violin 84-103 dB
  • Cello 82-92 dB
  • Clarinet 92-103 dB
  • French horn 90-106
  • Average walkman on 5/10 setting 94 dB
  • Symphonic music peak 120-137 dB
  • Amplified rock music at 4-6 ft. 120 dB
  • Rock music peak 150dB


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