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The unit of measurement of volume is dB (decibels). The faintest sound a normal human ear can make is 0 dB, while the noise made by a rocket at launch is close to 180 dB. The volume is reduced by half, doubling the distance. This means that the volume of sound reaching our ears increases as we approach our ears to the sound source.

Indicative volumes that reach our ear:
• A whisper is about 30 dB
• A normal talk is about 60 dB
• A lawnmower is about 90 dB
• The sound in the headphones from an iPod is about 115 dB

Many experts agree that a person’s constant exposure to sound above 85 dB is dangerous for the ears. Thus, a table was compiled with the sound pressure levels, in relation to the hours of exposure per day that can be exposed to the human ears, so as not to cause irreversible hearing damage.

Sound level dB  vs  Maximum duration (hours/day)
87dB  for max  8 hours
90dB  for max  4 hours
93dB  for max  2 hours
96dB  for max  1 hour
99dB  for max  30 minutes
102dB  for max  15 minutes

If we have a volume of 100-120 dB (A) from a few minutes to hours (depending on the table above), then acute auditory damage is created in the ear.

If we have an intensity in our ear greater than 150 dB, which lasts more than 1.5 ms (usually 3-5 ms), then the damage is caused to the inner ear, mostly by tearing the eardrum and creates irreversible auditory trauma.

Indicative volume at risk for ears:

Night club with music in Greece / Cyprus: The average level of music volume = 111 dB.
Night club with music in Germany: Average level of music volume = 102 dB
Concerts with rock music, pop = up to 110 dB.
Concerts with heavy metal music, punk, hard rock = up to 120 dB
Children’s toys: Imitation tools, ambulance sirens, weapons, etc., reach an average sound level of about 100 dB at a distance of 10 cm from the ear or even worse reach 130-140 dB in direct contact with the ear.
Airplanes flying low = 85-119 dB
Walkman: Average music level = 85-89 dB, at maximum with headphones = 120 dB. Individual music listening devices (eg MP3) can produce a volume of more than 120 decibels (dB) in the user’s ears. At these volume levels, the sound to which the ear is exposed has about the same power as an airplane jet engine, especially when the devices are used with headphones placed inside the ear canal.

Who puts their hearing at great risk?

Children and young people listening to loud music for a few hours each day with individual hearing aids. Loud music from individual MP3 players can cause hearing loss.
Young people in nightclubs with a volume greater than 102dB.
Workers in areas where the noise volume exceeds the maximum allowable duration.
Those who expose their ears to explosions, eg military, hunters, weapons, etc.
Children who place very close to their ears children’s toys that make loud noises.

Polys Tofini

Sound engineer

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