How loud is...?

Noise is measured using the decibel (dB) scale, which reflects the sensitivity of human ears to different levels and frequencies of sound.

Here are some examples:

  • 0dB - the quietest sound a healthy human ear can hear
  • 40dB - a quiet library
  • 60dB - ordinary spoken conversation
  • 85dB - a food blender
  • 88dB - heavy traffic
  • 91dB - a pneumatic drill
  • 97dB - an industrial fire alarm
  • 100dB - a nightclub
  • 110dB - a live gig or concert
  • 130dB - an aeroplane taking off 100m away

140dB is the level at which noise causes pain for most people, although some people may find lower levels painful too.

It is quoted that noise above 85dB, over time, can start to damage hearing. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to cause lasting hearing damage.

Remember, the louder the noise is and the longer you are exposed to it, the higher the risk to your hearing. You can protect your hearing by lowering the volume of music, reducing the time you’re exposed to loud noise, and using earplugs or ear defenders in noisy environments.

If you would like to read more information about protecting your hearing at work, please click here to go to the Health & Safety Executive guidelines.

Hearing loss can be categorized into the following ranges:

  • slight (16-25 dB hearing loss)
  • mild (26-40 dB hearing loss)
  • moderate (41-55 dB hearing loss)
  • moderately severe (56-70 dB hearing loss)
  • severe (71-90 dB hearing loss)
  • profound (greater than 90 dB hearing loss)

a white aeroplane with red wings taking off across a blue, cloudy sky