Published on July 1, 2017.

Loud and not so clear

A sampling of comparative noise levels

Continued exposure over time to noise above 85 dBA (adjusted decibels)—roughly the level of sound in a noisy restaurant—will cause hearing loss. The volume (dBA) and the length of exposure to the sound will tell you how harmful the noise is. In general, the louder the noise, the less time required before hearing loss will occur. A three dBA increase doubles the amount of noise and halves the recommended amount of exposure time.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the maximum exposure time at 85 dBA is eight hours. At 110 dBA—the volume of a leaf blower or car horn—the maximum exposure time is one minute and 29 seconds.

The following decibel levels of common noise sources are typical, but will vary. Noise levels above 140 dBA can damage hearing after just one exposure.

Chart on the different decibel levels certain items/events make.