The mystery of the decibel: what does it mean?

6 Sep 2018 About

Decibels might be just another measuring stick if it weren't for the damaging effects loud noise inflicts on our hearing. Any sound above 80 decibels can cause hearing loss and/or damage, which is related both to the power of the sounds as well as the length of exposure. But what does decibel actually mean, and how does it work?

Decibel (dB) is a logarithmic way of describing a ratio between things like power, sound pressure, and voltage. The smallest audible sound on the decibel scale is 0 dB, which is near to complete silence. A sound 10 times more intense than near silence, like breathing, is 10 dB. And a sound 10 times more intense than breathing, like rustling leaves, is 20 dB. So every 10 dB you go up on the scale is a 10-fold increase in sound intensity. This means that sounds of 80 dB, like highway noises from close by, are 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 1 million times more intense than rustling leaves.


Every extra 10 dB is a 10-fold increase in sound intensity

But luckily a 10-fold increase in sound intensity every time you go 10 dB up on the scale, doesn't mean that it also feels 10 times as loud. The sound will only feel approximately 2 times as loud every time you go 10 dB up on the scale. Which means that 80 dB is 'only' 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64 times as loud as 20dB, while the sound is 1 million times as intense.


Now, let's take a look at clubbing. Without wearing earplugs, your ears get exposed to around a 100 dB, which can already cause damage to your ears after only 15 minutes! This also means that the volume of the music in a club is around 20 dB louder than the safety limit of 80 dB, which means that the sound is a 100 times more intense and feels 4 times as loud as the maximum safety limit. For rock concerts, it's even worse as they averagely produce about 110 dB, which is about 30 dB louder than the maximum. This means that it is 1000 times more intense and 8 times as loud as the maximum. So wear those damn Thunderplugs! ;)

Curious about the decibel amount when out partying?

Try this app out! It'll let you actively measure the number of decibels in a club. Is it too high? Check out our store locator and there might just be a Thunderplugs vending machine in the club that you are currently at!

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