What exactly is a decibel and how do you measure it?

8 Oct 2018 About

When you want to protect your ears, it's useful to know when exactly you need to take extra measures. When is the amount of decibels too much to handle without protection and how exactly do you measure this?

Your friends from Thunderplugs are here to help you out. 'Cause you know, we're cool like that. First, it's important to know what exactly a decibel is. The decibel scale is a bit odd since the human ear is incredibly sensitive. And no, we're not talking about the dirty little whispers that give you goosebumps. Your ears can hear everything from your fingertip brushing lightly over your skin to a loud jet engine. In terms of power, the sound of the jet engine is about 1,000,000,000,000 times more powerful than the smallest audible sound. Quite the
difference, huh?

Hearing Loss

Any sound above 85 dB can cause hearing loss. To give you a rough indication about how loud that is, here are some common sounds and their ratings:

  1. Near total silence - 0 dB
  2. A whisper - 15 dB
  3. Normal conversation - 60 dB
  4. A lawnmower - 90 dB
  5. A car horn - 110 dB
  6. A rock concert or a jet engine - 120 dB
  7. A gunshot or firecracker - 140 dB

A good rule of thumb is that when you need to raise your voice to make yourself heard, the volume probably is too high.


But when it comes to your health, knowing for sure is always better than guessing. And ofcourse, there's an app for that.

Decibel X is available for iOs and Android. This app turns your smartphone into a pre-calibrated, accurate and easily portable sound level meter. It has a standard measurement range from 30 to 130 dB. The Sound Meter app can calibrate itself for your specific device. The interface features a gauge for displaying sound intensity levels as well as green, yellow and red indicators for safety. A potential limitation is that because maximum decibel levels are limited by some devices, you may not be able to measure sounds over 90 dB. This app is a good auxiliary option for most uses, but is not recommended if you need to measure very high noise levels.

Want to know if your colleagues endless rambling is not only ruining your peace of mind but also your ears? The NIOSH Sound Level app is developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and is very useful for people working in a noisy environment. You can passive-aggressively inform your coworkers about the amount of dB's they're producing. It probably won't make you the employee of the month, but it will make you way more productive.

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