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How Loud is Too Loud?

Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is the result of exposure to loud noises. Key risk factors include the volume of the noise and length of exposure to it.

The best way to avoid developing NIHL is to stay away from noises that exceed 80 – 85 decibels, as much as possible. Experts estimate that noise levels above 105 decibels can damage hearing, if endured for more than 15 minutes each week. Keep in mind that even noise levels between 85 and 90 decibels can cause permanent damage with extended exposure.

Estimated noise levels of some common activities include:

  • Normal conversation: 60 decibels
  • Busy street: 75 – 85 decibels
  • Underground train station: 90 decibels
  • Lawn mower: 94 decibels
  • Hand drill: 98 decibels
  • Motorcycle: 105 decibels
  • Car horn: 110 decibels
  • Nightclub: 110 decibels
  • Ambulance siren: 112 decibels
  • Diesel truck accelerating: 114 decibels
  • Chainsaw: 115 – 120 decibels
  • Cinema movie-action scenes: 118 decibels
  • Rock concert: 120 decibels
  • Jet engine: 150 decibels, and
  • Gun shot: 160 – 170 decibels

Remember, there are a variety of mobile applications and hand-held noise meters available that monitor noise levels.

Quick Fact

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Having your hearing tested on a regular basis, even if you think you have normal hearing, is an important part of hearing loss prevention.

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The Hearing Center of Excellence fosters and promotes the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, rehabilitation and research of hearing loss and auditory injury. It supports the development, exchange and adoption of best practices, research, measures of effectiveness and clinical care guidelines to reduce the prevalence and cost of hearing loss and tinnitus among Warriors and Veterans. Read more

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