How loud is too loud? Long or repeated exposure to noise levels at or above 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have to raise your voice to be heard over the noise, it is too loud.

Examples of Dangerous noise levels:

Constant heavy traffic—85 decibels (dB)

  • Can irreversibly damage hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound vibrations into nerve signals that travel to the brain

Loud music—110-120 dB

  • Whether at a concert or via headphones, the noise levels of music can be similar to that of power tools & heavy machinery

Shotgun fire—greater than 150 dB

  • Unprotected exposure to sudden, very loud sounds can lead to instantaneous, permanent hearing damage

Federal regulations govern allowable noise levels in the workplace, as well as the employer’s role in providing hearing protection. Find more information at CCOHS.
If you are regularly exposed to noise in your leisure activities or at work, contact us for advice on the latest custom fitted earplugs and hearing protection methods.
In addition to using ear protection, those who are regularly exposed to noise should get a hearing test to see if the effects of hearing damage are already present.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there advantages to earmuffs or earplugs?
Heavy-duty earmuffs can create a seal around the ear that cuts out noise to the same level as many earplugs. The main disadvantages of a larger headset are the possibility for less mobility, and the possibility that they may fall off, leaving the ears exposed for some period of time. Earplugs may also fall out, but custom-fit earplugs are likely to stay sealed comfortably in the ear for as long as you’d like to wear them.
How can I tell if a noise is dangerous?
If you must raise your voice in order to be heard over the sound, you’re probably experiencing a dangerous amount of noise. Do what you can to move out of harm’s way, or cover your ears if possible until the noise passes.
How do I protect my ears from loud noise?
Earplugs that fit snugly and seal tightly in your ear canal typically offer protection for a variety of situations. Custom-fit hearing protection offered by Burnaby Hearing Centre can protect your ears from harmful noise levels while still allowing you to enjoy the activities you love.
How long can I be exposed to loud noises before it affects my hearing?
Permissible noise exposure levels vary. Hearing loss is cumulative, meaning that the less time you’re exposed to loud noises over the course of your life, the better your hearing health is likely to be. The point at which sound begins to damage hearing is 85 dB, for which the permissible continuous exposure period is about eight hours. For each 3 dB increase in noise pressure, the permissible exposure time before hearing damage can occur is cut in half. For example, permissible exposure to 88 dB would be four hours, 91 dB would be two hours, 94 dB would be one hour, etc.
My ears hurt after being exposed to loud noise. What should I do?
Do whatever you can to get away from that noise immediately. When a noise is painful, it’s likely that damage is being done to your hearing. Noises loud enough to cause pain are also typically loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage almost immediately. If the pain persists, please see a medical professional.
What are some common loud noises I should avoid?
Perhaps the most common loud noise you’ll encounter is freeway traffic, which can be loud enough to damage hearing (85 dB) when it’s heavy. Lawn mowers, chain saws, ambulances, garbage trucks, and motorcycles are all fairly common neighborhood or street sounds that can damage hearing. During certain times of the year, firecrackers, jackhammers, snowmobiles, or outdoor sporting equipment (guns included) might make themselves known. And of course loud music — whether it’s through earbuds and a loud iPod or in person at a concert — is one of the most common culprits of hearing loss today.
Where can I get custom hearing protection?
Burnaby Hearing Centre can fit you with custom hearing protection that defends the delicate inner ear against harmful noise levels.