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Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, that help one to understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise

Weakest sound heard 0dB
Whisper Quiet Library 30dB
Normal conversation (3-5') 60-70dB
Telephone dial tone 80dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
Train whistle at 500', Truck Traffic 90dB
Subway train at 200' 95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 - 95dB
Power mower at 3' 107dB
Snowmobile, Motorcycle 100dB
Power saw at 3' 110dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert 115dB
Pain begins 125dB
Pneumatic riveter at 4' 125dB
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage - Loudest recommended exposure WITH hearing protection 140dB
Jet engine at 100', Gun Blast 140dB
Death of hearing tissue 180dB
Loudest sound possible 194dB


OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB


Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
Imperceptible Change 1dB
 Barely Perceptible Change 3dB
Clearly Noticeable Change 5dB
About Twice as Loud 10dB
About Four Times as Loud 20dB


Sound Levels of Music
Normal piano practice 60 -70dB
Fortissimo Singer, 3' 70dB
Chamber music, small auditorium 75 - 85dB
Piano Fortissimo 84 - 103dB
Violin 82 - 92dB
Cello 85 -111dB
Oboe 95-112dB
Flute  92 -103dB
Piccolo 90 -106dB
Clarinet 85 - 114dB
French horn 90 - 106dB
Trombone 85 - 114dB
Tympani & bass drum 106dB
Walkman on 5/10 94dB
Symphonic music peak 120 - 137dB
Amplifier rock, 4-6' 120dB
Rock music peak 150dB


  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occurred.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.