Comparing Different Sounds

Table 11.1 shows some common sounds and the approximate sound pressure level associated with them.

Table 11.1. Decibel rating of common sounds.

Sound pressure level (dB)

Sound description

188 150

Apollo lift-off, close Jet engine, 10 ft away

140 Pain threshold

130 125

Warning siren Chain saw Loud thunder

120 Discomfort threshold 115 Max under federal law

110 105

Very loud music

Loud motorcycle or lawn mower

Pneumatic air-hammer

Cockpit of light plane, heavy truck

Average street traffic

Lathe, milling machine, loud singing

Vacuum cleaner, dishwasher

Average radio, noisy restaurant

100 Very loud

90 85 80 75 70

65 Annoying

60 50 40 30 20

Normal conversation, air conditioner Light traffic, average office Library, quiet office Quiet room in home, audible whisper Electric clock, faint whisper Rustle of leaves

10 Barely detectable 0 Hearing threshold

Determining Noise Exposure 155

This chart may help you identify and classify sounds that you normally encounter; and if they are disturbing or otherwise unhealthy, you can avoid them or properly protect yourself from any of their adverse effects. Note that the values shown in the table are average values. Also, notice that (almost) identical sounds may come from different machines and situations. Further, individuals may differ in their tolerance of and classification of different sounds and noises. In specific situations and when determining if noise levels are acceptable under current standards, the equations in section 11.7 must be used.

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