Loudness is measured in decibels (dB). As decibels rise, loudness quickly increases. A 10-dB rise is a 10-time leap in loudness. That means an 80-dB sound (a vacuum cleaner) is 10 times louder than a 70-dB sound (a telephone ringing) and 100 times louder than a 60-dB sound (normal conversation).
At the workplace, your employer measures noise with sound level meters and dosimeters. If the average noise exposure over an 8-hour work shift is 85 dB or higher, you need protection. OSHA requires your employer to have a hearing conservation program. From 85 dB to 125 dB, you can lose hearing painlessly. Over 125 dB, you may feel pain. As loudness and pitch rise, you may get acoustic trauma. That means a single exposure can cause permanent hearing loss.
Weakest sounds you can hear
Rustle of leaves
Quiet bedroom at night
Whispered conversation; milk poured on dry cereal
Soft music; average suburban home during day
Large business office; light freeway traffic
Normal conversation; household washing machine
Ringing telephone; alarm clock; noisy restaurant; moderate freeway traffic; light assembly plant
Vacuum cleaner; shouted conversation; busy city streets; welding equipment
Small woodworking shop; portable sander; automatic screw machine; drill press; subway train; 20-ton truck; newspaper printing press
Lawn mower; outboard motor; snowmobile; bulldozer; chain saw; circular saw; weaving room; riveting machine; helicopter
Motorcycle; loud music; 120-watt stereo system at high volume; car horn; thunderclap; ship engine room; punch press; sand blaster; turbine generator; .357 magnum gun
Jet engine at takeoff; high-powered shotgun blast
Intense explosion; rocket liftoff