Why noise is so harmful to your health

October 11, 2016

Why noise is so harmful to your health

Like most things in life that affect us if taken at the proper amounts for the proper time frame we will enjoy the benefits, but if taken at too high a level or for too long a time we can see negative effects or if taken a too low a level or for too short a time you may not see any benefits at all.

Sound is no different. Too soft and we cannot enjoy the pleasure of hearing it, too loud and it can produce damaging effects. At the right level sound can have a tremendously beneficial effect on us.

What we need to know then, is at what level noise can be harmful to your health and how that can negatively affect us. Let’s first look at noise levels that harm.

Noise levels that harm

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise and 30 – 50 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.

harmful noise

Statistics taken from the Audiometric results from the 2012/2013 Canadian Health Measure Survey shows that 19.2% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 had measured hearing loss in at least one ear; 35.4% had high-frequency hearing loss.

Conclusions from a 2001 Board of Health Report to the City of Toronto state that:

Noise is an important public health issue that affects everyone in the community. Noise-related adverse health impacts can be prevented by minimizing exposure to excessive noise. Most of the major noise-related health effects have been established by the international scientific community over the past few decades. To date there is sufficient scientific evidence that excessive noise exposure can induce hearing impairment, psychosocial effects such as annoyance, stress-related health effects such as cardiovascular disorders, sleep disturbance, and decreased school performance.

How loud is too loud?

When we compare:

  • normal conversation at 3 feet at 60-65dB (Decibels) level to
  • truck traffic at 90dB,harmful noise
  • a jackhammer at 95dB
  • a motorcycle at 100dB
  • a loud rock concert at 115dB
  • a jet engine at 100 feet at 140dB
  • a12 Gauge Shotgun Blast at 165dB,


You begin to get a sense of how loud, loud can be. The level at which exposure for more than 8 hours will affect your hearing is set at 85 dB (under the protectors is allowed, 82 dB is preferred AND 75 dB should be the target to maximize worker health and productivity). Of course the higher the decibel level the less time exposure can be tolerated before hearing damage will occur.

This has also been shown to be accumulative so the more exposure you have during the day the more damage can occur even if the decibel level does not rise.

The Maximum Recommended amount of time a person should be exposed to different levels of noise will give you an even better understanding of how quickly loud noises can cause damage to occur.

  • 85dBA   –  8 hours
  • 91dBA (truck traffic)  –  2 hours
  • 100dBA (motorcycle) –  15 minutes
  • 115dBA (loud rock concert)   –  28 seconds
  • 140dBA NO EXPOSURE!  –   Immediate nerve damage can occur.


Psychosocial and Stress Related Health Effects

As stated above noise impacts so many health concerns as well as social concerns. It is hard to judge just how pervasive the effects of loud noises are but the warning to everyone should be that the effects of loud noise over long exposure is indeed detrimental and in many cases irreversible.

We should do everything in our power to not only avoid but also protect ourselves against the damaging effects of loud noise!


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