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Definition: A Decibel is a measurement of Sound level.

Our ears detect changes in volume in a non-linear fashion. A decibel is a logarithmic scale of loudness. A difference of 1 decibel is perceived as a minimum change in volume, 3 db is a moderate change, and 10 decibels is perceived by the listener as a doubling of volume. Decibels are designated by the letters: db.

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 NoisePotential Environmental noise level heard with Super Slim Ear Muffs installed in full face helmet with NRR 18
(noise reduction rating)
Normal conversation at 3' 60-65dB42-47dB (decibels)
Telephone dial tone80dB62dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB67dB
Train whistle at 500', Truck Traffic90dB72dB
Jackhammer at 50'95dB77dB
Subway train at 200' 95dB77dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss90 - 95dB 
Hand Drill98dB 80dB
Power mower at 3'107dB 89dB
Snowmobile, Motorcycle95dB to120dB
with some turbo chargers
77dB to 102dB
with some turbo chargers
Power saw at 3'110dB92dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert115dB97dB
Pain begins125dB 
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage140dB 
Jet engine at 100'140dB122dB
12 Gauge Shotgun Blast165dB147dB


OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per daySound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5102dB
1 105dB
.5110dB
.25 or less115dB


Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
Imperceptible Change1dB
Barely Perceptible Change3dB
Clearly Noticeable Change 5dB
About Twice as Loud 10dB
About Four Times as Loud 20dB
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging.
  • 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.
  • Tinnitus can be related to noise exposure.
Tinnitus Symptoms
With tinnitus, you hear a noise that no one around you hears. This noise is usually a buzzing or ringing type sound, but it may be a clicking or rushing sound that goes along with your heartbeat. The sound is sometimes accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness in a syndrome known as Meniere's disease.

Tinnitus Causes
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but rather a reflection of something else that is going on in the hearing system or brain. Probably the most common cause for tinnitus is hearing loss. As we age, or because of trauma to the ear (through noise), the portion of the ear that allows us to hear, the cochlea, becomes damaged.
  • Current theories suggest that because the cochlea is no longer sending the normal signals to the brain, the brain becomes confused and essentially develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals. This then is interpreted as a sound, tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus caused by ear trauma is usually noticed in both ears, because both ears are usually exposed to the same noises.
  • Loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus today, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise from firearms, high intensity music, or machinery.
Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day, according to the NIDCD. (National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders)
 
 

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