At what sound level is dangerous

Protect ears

The essentials in brief...

Continuous exposure to sound from MP3 players, disco, concerts and noise in the workplace can damage hearing. Once acquired, hearing loss is no longer curable, not even through an operation.
Continuous exposure to sound can damage your hearing

Whether music puts your ears at risk depends on how loudly you listen, how long you listen, and how often you take breaks.
When does it get dangerous for the ears?

Music with headphones is often heard between 70 and 100 decibels, in discos the sound level is typically 93 to 100 dB (A) and at concerts it is usually 100 dB (A) loud. For the ears, however, it becomes critical from 85 dB (A).
What is how loud?

Even without a sound level meter, the sound level in a room can be roughly estimated. Look at the table!
How can you estimate the volume?

Continuous exposure to sound can damage your hearing

Every morning with the headphones out of the house ...

work eight hours a day with loud machines ...

and go to the disco or a concert on the weekend!

Sources: SUVA / IP Advertising GmbH


24/7 music sounds good, but ...


This permanent exposure prevents the so-called cilia (the finest hairs on the hair cells) in the inner ear from recovering, which over time stick together or even break off.

Mouseover Source: Ising, Kruppa

Intact and destroyed cilia. Magnification approx. 5000: 1 (drag the mouse over the image)


Good to know:


Overloaded cilia develop a circulatory disorder and die prematurely due to the lack of energy. Dead cilia are irrevocably lost and cannot be replaced with surgery. Hearing damage from loud music or work noise is therefore incurable. While among primitive peoples 70-year-olds often still have the fine hearing of a 30-year-old, with us 30-year-olds sometimes already have the blunted hearing of a 70-year-old. Studies in European countries show that one in four young people is already affected by hearing loss. In addition to the sound of very loud children's toys or the bang of fireworks, loud music in discos, at concerts or from headphones also plays its part.

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When does it get dangerous for the ears?

Whether music endangers your ears
depends...

how loud you hear ...

how long you listen ...

how often you take breaks.

From around 85 dB (A), in addition to the volume, the listening time is also decisive for the risk of hearing loss. The louder the music, the shorter the permitted listening time and the longer the breaks are necessary. If you hear music below 85 dB (A), you are on the safe side.


Sources of noise, noise levels and impairment of hearing

Source: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In the red area above 85 decibels (loud sound), loud music can cause hearing damage, depending on the length of time you listen. Between 40 and 85 decibels (low sound) the ears are not in direct danger, but the sound can have negative effects on health: cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, stress, poor concentration and much more. You can find more information on the dangers of low noise in the module "Does noise make you sick?".

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What is how loud?

Due to the large number of measurements, the following empirical values ​​for music sound levels can be given:

 situation

Sound level

Area

typical

Rock concert, in the audience area

95 - 105

100

dB (A)

Rock and jazz music in the practice room

90 - 105

100

dB (A)

Discotheque, on the dance floor

90 - 100

 95

dB (A)

Walkman with headphones

70 - 110

 85

dB (A)

Stereo system with headphones

70 - 115

 95

dB (A)

Stereo system with speakers

70 - 100

 80

dB (A)

Brass music rehearsal in the classroom

90 -  95

 90

dB (A)

Music in the orchestra pit (opera, operetta)

85 - 100

 90

dB (A)

Guggenmusig in the practice room

95 - 105

100

dB (A)

Source: SUVA

Good to know:

  • The sound levels at concerts (100 decibels) and in discos (95 decibels) are massively above the critical limit for the ears of 85 dB (A).
  • 10 minutes unprotected at a loud concert is about as harmful as listening to music for 17 hours with a stereo system at a loud room volume (80 decibels).
  • It doesn't matter whether you're filling your ears with rock, house, or hip-hop. With the same sound level, the sound pressure and sound energy are the same for every style of music. So the risk of hearing loss does not depend on whether you find the music pleasant or uncomfortable.
  • 10 decibels more are perceived as twice as loud, but the sound pressure is 3 times greater and the sound intensity (energy of the sound) is even 10 times greater. With an additional 3 dB (A), the duration of exposure must be halved so that the effect on the ears remains the same. If the volume increases by 10 dB (A), the strain on the ears increases tenfold. You can find more information on this in the "Acoustics" module.

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How can you estimate the volume?

Even without a sound level meter, the sound level in a room can be roughly estimated. If two people are one meter apart, the following empirical values ​​apply:

to

  70 

dB (A)

Conversation at normal volume possible

at

  80 

dB (A)

Communication with a raised voice is possible

at

  90 

dB (A)

Understanding difficult even with calls

at

 100 

dB (A)

Understanding is only possible with a great deal of vocal effort

from

 105 

dB (A)

communication is no longer possible

Source: SUVA

However, measuring is better than estimating. Simple sound level meters are available in stores for as little as 50 francs or can be borrowed (free for schools) or rented from SUVA (acoustics department).

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