Our Guide to Noise Levels

Hearing loss is a common injury that can remain unnoticed for years as it develops gradually. Most people accept a certain level of hearing loss with age.

In cases of noise induced hearing loss relating to excessive noise exposure experienced in the workplace, it is possible to make a claim for compensation. We deal with these claims on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.

Many of our clients suffering with noise induced hearing loss comment that they did not like to complain about the noise levels at work because they were happy to have a job and did not want to ‘rock the boat’. Regardless of this, employers should have provided suitable conditions for their employees and clients should not feel as though they are not entitled to make a claim. Noise induced hearing loss is permanent and clients should investigate whether a claim can be made as they will have to live with the damage caused by their previous employers forever.

Typical Noise Levels

When talking about different decibel levels, it’s difficult to know how intense noises can actually be. Here is our rough guide to typical examples of sounds at certain decibel levels.

  • 10dB – Broadcasting studio
  • 20dB – Bedroom at night
  • 30dB – Library
  • 40dB – Suburban Living room
  • 50dB – Busy office
  • 60dB – Conversational speech
  • 70dB – Traffic on a street corner
  • 80dB – Inside a bus
  • 90dB – Inside an underground train
  • 100dB – Grinder, circular saw
  • 110dB – Loud Motor Horn
  • 120dB – Sandblast machine, propeller engine
  • 130dB – Pneumatic road breaker
  • 140dB – Jet engine (pain threshold)

NB. A 3dB increase in the noise level represents a doubling of the noise intensity i.e. a noise at 93dB is twice as intense as a noise at 90dB (although to the human ear a 3dB change is barely noticeable).

A 10dB increase represents a 10 fold increase in noise intensity.

A 20dB increase represents a 100 fold increase in noise intensity (e.g. 90dB is 100 times more intense than a noise of 70dB).

Expected reduction values for hearing protectors

Often in industrial environments, excessive noise levels are attenuated by different classes of hearing protection. Here is our rough guide to noise reduction levels offered by various forms of protection.

  • Dry cotton wool and music headphones – 0dB
  • Waxed Cotton wool – 5dB
  • Soft plastic ear plugs – 10dB
  • Canal caps (suprameatal plugs on headband) – 10dB
  • Personalised ear moulds – 10dB
  • Glass down ear plus (e.g. Bilsom) – 15dB
  • Plastic foam ear plugs (e.g. E.A.R. range) – 15dB
  • Earmuffs (ear defenders) – 20dB

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