How is environmental noise measured? How do we know if a noise is useful and pleasant or disturbing and harmful? The decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement that lets us know if the noise around us is acceptable. For example, from 70 dB and up, noise is considered a nuisance; at 130 dB, it can be painful and dangerous for the ears!

To give you an idea of what this practically means, here is a decibel scale and examples of everyday noises.

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10 – 30 decibels

10 decibels is when you breathe
20 decibels is the ticking of a watch
30 decibels is the rustle of leaves

Acceptable

40 – 60 decibels

40 decibels is a whisper in your ear
50 decibels is moderate rain
60 decibels is a conversation

Harmful

70 – 90 decibels

70 decibels is a moving car
80 decibels is a ringing phone
90 decibels, it’s a passing truck

Risk

100 – 120 decibels

100 decibels is a jackhammer
110 decibels is a helicopter
120 decibels is a plane taking off

Hurtful

130 and above

is the pain threshold