Hearing Loss Prevention

How Loud is Too Loud

A noise’s potential to damage hearing depends on the intensity of the sound (measured in decibels, dB) and the duration of the sound.


In general, the louder the sound in dB, the shorter the time you can be exposed to that sound before damage occurs. With every 5 dB increase in intensity, the amount of time you can be safely exposed to the sound is cut in half.


For example, a person without hearing protection can safely be exposed to an 85 dB sound for 8 hours, a 90 dB sound for 4 hours, a 95 dB sound for 2 hours, and so on. At 120 dB, the average sound intensity of a rock concert, a person can be safely exposed for only 7½ minutes.


A “safe” noise level is approximately 75 dB or less. According to The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), individuals can be exposed to sounds of 85 dB for no more than 8 hours. Individuals exposed to sounds above 85 dB should use appropriate, properly fitted hearing protection.


The “Noise Thermometer” shown below illustrates the noise levels of various activities, along with the amount of time before damage is likely to occur.


As a general rule, a noise is hazardous if you experience any of the following: