Sound Exposure and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is definitely a concern to audio enthusiasts, as they may be more prone to it due to the long listening periods or live concert attendance.  An an audio enthusiast, you may also be more concerned about protecting your hearing so you can get the most out of your system.  Therefore, it’s important to know what potential exposure to sound could cause any problems.  Our users Learsfool and Corazon provided a great reference guide with they info they posted in our Forum, as seen below.

Learsfool: Recently, there was a post on the ICSOM board that I thought I would share the info from. ICSOM is the International Congress of Symphony and Opera Musicians, which consists of the musicians of the major US and some international orchestras.

The topic was how long can a person endure a certain noise level before hearing impairment occurs. As you can imagine, this is a fairly hot topic among symphonic musicians the world over, as it has been proven that we will lose at least 20% of our hearing over the course of our careers. I think audiophiles will also be very interested in the following stats, especially those of you who like to listen very loudly for long periods.

What follows are the current standards for recommended permissible exposure duration for continuous time weighted average noise, according to NIOSH and CDC. Keep in mind this is an average level for continuous exposure, and these numbers may not represent a world wide view of the subject. Basically, for every 3dB beyond 82dB, the permissible exposure time is cut in half before hearing damage will occur.

82dB – 16 hours
85dB – 8 hours
88dB – 4 hours
91dB – 2 hours
94dB – 1 hour
97dB – 30 minutes
100dB – 15 minutes
103dB – 7.5 minutes
106dB – less than 4 minutes
109dB – less than 2 minutes
112dB – less than 1 minute
115dB – less than 30 seconds

Corazon: Very interesting. Found some info relative to the levels you have, thought it would be interesting to share.

Sound    Example
140 Gunshot at close range
120 Loud rock show
100 Shouting at close range
80 Busy city street
70 Normal conversation
50 Quiet conversation
30 Soft whisper
20 In the woods at night
6.5 Mean absolute threshold at 1 kHz
0 Reference level


Jcmcgrogan2: Indeed interesting and may it serve to caution all. This information should be shared to all, especially the young who blast everything from car stereos to iPods.

David12: You are right about ears being very sensitive. The easiest advice to follow as a guide, is if you go to a concert and have low grade tinnitus for a few days after, you have permanently degraded your hearing to a small degree, then a bit more next time. We all take our ears and hearing for granted, in a way we wouldn’t with our eyes, for example. I am sure many of you have heard this story, it may even be true. Someone reported a pigeon flying in front of speakers at a Zappa concert and literally disintegrating.

Nonoise: One aspect of hearing loss that is always mentioned is once you’ve lost it, it’s gone forever. I think that should be revised as I’ve been off work now for 6 weeks and have another 6 to go due to shoulder surgery. From the quieter comforts of my place, I’ve noticed that I don’t have the volume up where I’ve always had it since I can now hear easily what I used to concentrate to do so. The same goes for the TV. I rather like it.

Singleendedsingle: God, we sometimes forget how loud we play our music. Thanks for the reminder friend.


As many chimed in already, keep this data in mind when you are cranking up the volume or participating in a loud activity. Have you experienced noticeable hearing loss from a concert or listening too loud?  What do you do to prevent your exposure to damaging decibels?  Comment below to share your thoughts!


  1. There is no substitute for a hearing test. It measure the response of
    the eardrum to pressure, the frequencies of sound that can be heard,
    and the recognition, at different volumes, of words. Especially important
    to those over age 60. At the same time you are in the doctor’s office,
    an exam can reveal any unusual wax buildup, which can be removed.

  2. Michael457
    Over the span of the last 10 years, I have become increasingtly conscious of my ears
    sensitivity to sound loudness. I have reluctantly given up some very fine speakers
    because the intensity of the speaker db.emitted sound would cause my ears to ache and, for me, this was the litaneous test for deciding not to keep a certain speaker in play on my stereo system. The kid in me lloves occasional loudness in music but I have
    painfully come to recognize fully well that too loud can result in hearing impairment.
    Sometimes you hear a ringing sound in your ears which is a sign that something is not
    happening within your ears for the good.. SO now, I seldom listen directly in my stereo room but allow my llistening to take placei in my adjoining computer/TV room. I also have a set sound level that I set my PreAmplifer at so the sound is comfortable to my ears. And having this separating room, softens the sound intensity quite well and I feel I am still getting the enjoyment of beautiful sounding music from my stereo system but at a safer accoustical listening place……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s