Sound Ruler

Sound Ruler – What is too loud?

Every day we hear a variety of sounds. Sounds that are too loud or loud sounds over a long time, can damage your hearing.The loudness of sounds is measured in decibels (dB). Learn the decibel levels for different soudns and know which noises can cause damage to your hearing. Protect your ears when you are involved in a loud activity.

How loud is too loud?

Decibel Level | What we hear

  • 10 dB Normal breathing
  • 20 dB Rustling leaves, mosquito
  • 30 dB Whisper
  • 40 dB Stream, refrigerator humming
  • 50-60 dB Quiet office
  • 50-65 dB Normal conversation
  • 60-65 dB Laughter
  • 70 dB Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer
  • 75 dB Dishwasher
  • 78 dB Washing machine
  • 80 dB Garbage disposal, city traffic noise

Prolonged exposure to any noise above 90 dB can cause gradual hearing loss.

  • 84 dB Diesel truck
  • 70-90 dB Recreational vehicle
  • 88 dB Subway, motorcycle
  • 85-90 dB Lawnmower
  • 100 dB Train, garbage truck
  • 97 dB Newspaper press
  • 98 dB Farm tractor

Regular exposure of more than 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss.

  • 103 dB Jet flyover at 100 feet
  • 105 dB Snowmobile
  • 110 dB Jackhammer, power saw, symphony orchestra
  • 120 dB Thunderclap, discotheque/boom box
  • 110-125 dB Stereo
  • 110-140 dB Rock concerts
  • 130 dB Jet takeoff, shotgun firing
  • 145 dB Boom cars

For more information about noise-induced hearing loss, contact:


NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Phone: 1-800-241-1044
TTY: 1-800-241-1055

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