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Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Environmental Noise

weakest sound heard 0 dB
normal conversation at 3-5 ft 60-70 dB
dial tone of telephone 80 dB
city traffic inside car 85 dB

1983 OSHA monitoring requirements begin 90 dB

train whistle at 500 ft. 90 dB
subway train at 200 ft. 95 dB
regular sustained exposure may cause permanent damage 90-95 dB
power mower 107 dB
power saw 110 dB

Pain begins 125 dB

pneumatic riveter at 4 ft. 125 dB
jet engine at 100 ft. 140 dB
loudest sound that can occur 194 dB

Musical Noise

normal piano practice 60-70 dB
fortissimo singer 3 ft. away 70 dB
chamber music in small auditorium 75-85 dB
regular sustained exposure may cause permanent damage 90-95 dB
piano fortissimo 92-95 dB
violin 84-103 dB
cello 82-92 dB
oboe 90-94 dB
flute 85-111 dB
piccolo 95-112 dB
clarinet 92-103 dB
french horn 90-106 dB
trombone 85-114 dB
timpani & bass drum rolls 106 dB
average Walkman on 5/10 setting 94 dB
symphonic music peak 120-137 dB
amplified rock music at 4-6 ft. 120 dB
rock music peak 150 dB


  • The brass section playing fortissimo can drown out practically the whole orchestra.
  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occured.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin , M.Sc., Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada. There were some conflicting readings and, in many cases, authors did not specify at what distance the readings were taken or what the musician was actually playing. In general, when there were several readings, the higher one was chosen.


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