How Loud Is Too Loud?

A "quiet" sign in a residential area.

If you're consistently raising your voice, or there is a ringing noise in your ears, your environment is dangerous. You can either leave the situation or seek to reduce the volume by investing in high-quality earplugs or installing soundproof windows, which will eliminate up to 95 percent of ambient noise. Even after making changes, you should measure noise levels frequently to ensure that your environment is safe.

Loud noises not only irritate you during the day, but they can ruin a good night’s sleep. Did you know that your brain continues to register noise even as you sleep? Research from the National Sleep Foundation indicates noise can disturb your sleep, making you prone to restless nights.

City traffic, airplanes, trains, your neighbor’s barking dog, and even the TV in your bedroom are all contributors to sleep disturbance. Noise levels are measured in decibels, dB for short. The World Health Organization states that constant noise exceeding 30 dB disturbs sleep. And further research indicates sporadic noise, like the sound coming from your television, dramatically increases your chances of being awakened during the night.

When Noise Disturbs Your Sleep It's a Health Issue

According to the British Medical Bulletin, the effects of noise exposure during sleep are harmful, causing an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse. Additionally, people exposed to nighttime noise may feel the adverse effects of the disturbances the next day - often citing negative perceived sleep quality and sluggishness as symptoms of disrupted sleep due to noise.

Daytime Noise Is Stressful Too

Not only is it necessary to be mindful of the decibels your ears are taking in during the night, you should also be aware of noise levels that are too loud during the day. Research from the Southern Medical Journal shows that exposure to sounds in excess of 65 dB on a continual basis, or brief noise levels in the 80 to 85 dB range, may stimulate your body’s stress response - producing a possible negative effect on your cardiovascular system. Increased periods of stress due to significant noise during your day may prove to be challenging as you attempt to wind down and get some rest.

Tools to Help You Decide How Loud Is too Loud

Instead of ignoring the problem, conduct your own research to determine your personal noise level and make sure environmental noise isn’t harming your health.

how loud is too loud?, decibel graph

Determining how loud is too loud comes down to the intensity and length of exposure to noises and you may be surprised by the volume of other common sounds. For instance, would you be surprised to find out that the maximum volume coming out of your headphones is measured at 110 dB? The higher the dB level, the louder the noise, and sounds louder than 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss.

Measuring noise levels is easy thanks to some new tools. There are several free apps you can download that accurately measure audio decibel levels in your home, office, or even in a nightclub. Employing tools to manage your environmental noise level is key to maintaining your overall health.

Graph by The Hearing Care Center