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Noise Levels of Everyday Sounds

Every day, we're surrounded by a symphony of sounds, from the gentle hum of life to the occasional burst of excitement. Our incredible ears team up with our brain to make sense of it all, starting with the magic that happens in the cochlea.

While our ears are fantastic at sorting sounds and deciding what's important, they can also adapt to louder noise levels if we're exposed to them often.

From everyday stuff to our favorite hobbies, we've analysed some data to share insights on sounds that might not be so friendly to your hearing in the long run.

But don't worry; we're here to help you navigate this noisy world. We’ve also used this data to offer guidance on when you should consider a free hearing test or check if you might have tinnitus.
police motorbike

Understanding Decibel Levels and Identifying Safe Sound Levels

Sound is measured in units called Decibels, also known as dB

Decibels(dB) are named in honour of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of both the telephone and the audiometer. An audiometer is a device that measures how well a person can hear certain sounds.

To provide context, the average whisper is measured at 30 dB and a normal conversion is measured at around 60 dB. Safe levels of noise are recommended at 60 dB and below.

For example, the average motorcycle has a dB of 95 - it’s possible to suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus after 50 minutes of continuous exposure.

It’s important to understand what noises can impact ear health. Below, you can find more information on what noises are associated with common jobs or hobbies.

Harmful Sounds for Your Hearing

In the table below, you can find the average dB level of the more harmful sounds that have been tested. 

These have been measured and organised into a table, and linked to professions that experience these certain noise levels in the workplace. 

Rank Sounds Tested Industry Industry dBA Average
1 Emergency vehicle siren, mounted on car grill, at front of car Emergency services professionals 114.0
2 Police motorcycle, Kawasaki 1000, siren on Police officer 110.0
3 Night club, floor staff, UK Bar/nightclub staff 102.0
4 Chainsaw Tree surgeon 102.0
5 Crane, paving machine, Bulldozer, drill, construction noise Construction worker 99.3
6 Night clubs, DJs, UK DJs 99.0
7 Labourers - demolition Labourer 99.0
8 Ambulance, inside with siren on Paramedic 97.0
9 Farming combines, Tractor, Pig squeals Farmer 96.3
10 Electricians - installing trench conduit, Electricians - pulling wire Electrician 96.0
11 Ironworkers - erecting Iron, Ironworkers - grinding Ironworkers 92.0
12 Welding Welder 91.0
13 Lawn mower, gas-powered and electric, Leaf blower Gardener 85.3
14 Waste disposal Waste disposal person 78.0
15 Vacuum cleaner Cleaner 75.0
16 Hair dryer Hairdresser 75.0

Those in emergency services were found to be at high levels of risk when it came to exposure to dB levels on a daily basis. This was measured by the siren levels they were exposed to. 

Sounds above 105 dB can cause hearing loss after five to ten minutes. As well as this, pain and injury to the ear, such as tinnitus, can be risky for people like police officers and bar/nightclub staff who are exposed to high sound levels. 

Chainsaws, which are used regularly by tree surgeons are also high on the list. So, it’s important that those who work in this industry are provided with the correct health and safety equipment. 

Professions exposed to a dB average of 90 to 100 can suffer from hearing damage after 50 minutes of continuous exposure. These include jobs for those in construction, farming, trade (like electricians and ironworkers) and music entertainment (such as DJs).

Gardeners, cleaners, hairdressers and those in waste disposal also made the top of the list - common jobs that many people work within. Working with tools or machinery can have negative effects over time. For example, a hairdresser listens to a hairdryer all day. A dB of 80 to 85 can cause damage to hearing after just two hours.
family saying cheers at restaurant

When Should I Go for a Hearing Test?

Hearing loss affects one in six people in the UK. If you’re over 50, we recommend having a hearing check every two years to keep an eye on your hearing.

At Boots Hearingcare, they’re completely free and take 15 minutes – book a free hearing test now.

Because hearing loss is so gradual, it’s not always easy to notice if you’re not hearing as well as you used to. Here are some signs you can look out for:

  • The TV is too loud for other members of your family.
  • You find it difficult to keep up with conversations when there’s background noise.
  • Chatting on the phone is tricky, even when the room is quiet.
  • You feel like people are mumbling a lot, and you have to ask them to repeat what they’ve said.
  • Often it’s your loved ones who notice a hearing loss before you do – so they might hint when they notice you’re finding it difficult to hear.

References

Safe dB levels and average levels of sound - NHS: Centre ofDisease Control & Prevention 
Sounds tested by 3M