Introduction to Monitoring Noise and Sound

Noise can be defined as the presence of unwanted sound. Something that makes a sound must pulse the air back and forth, generating sound waves detectable by the human ear (in the range of about 20Hz to 20,000 Hertz). These "sound waves" strike our ear drums, which are moved by the changes in air pressure and enable us to perceive sound. Many workplace environments can be harmful, sometimes causing permanent damage, to our hearing.

How Does a Noise Meter Work?

Sound waves are measured using a microphone and converted into data which is displayed and/or logged into memory.

Sound and Noise General Information

Various dB levels and the corresponding reduction in actual sound pressure as well as the human perceived volume reduction for reducing noise levels.

qB Levels

dB Actual Sound Pressure Reduction Perceived Volume Reduction
3 dB 50.00% 18.77%
6 dB 75.00% 34.02%
9 dB 87.50% 46.41%
12 dB 93.75% 56.47%
15 dB 96.88% 64.64%
18 dB 98.44% 71.28%
21 dB 99.22% 76.67%
27 dB 99.80% 84.61%
33 dB 99.95% 89.85%
39 dB 99.99% 93.30%
45 dB 100.00% 95.58%
51 dB 100.00% 97.08%
57 dB 100.00% 98.08%
63 dB 100.00% 98.73%
69 dB 100.00% 99.16%
75 dB 100.00% 99.45%
81 dB 100.00% 99.64%

OSHA Exposure Limits

Common sources of sound with typical decibel levels and OSHA exposure limits:

Maximum Exposure per Sound Level db Examples
  No Sound 0 Threshold of hearing; essentially no sound.
    10 Breathing.
  Very Quiet 20 Whisper, rustling leaves.
  Quiet 50 Quiet suburb, private office.
  Annoying 70 Freeway traffic at 50 feet, vacuum cleaner.
  Loud 80 Garbage disposal, average factory, noisy office.
8 Hours   90 Power drill, shop tools, disel truck.
2 Hours Very Loud 100 Jet takeoff 1000 feet, outboard motor, tactor.
0 Hours Pain Threshold 120 Loud thunderclap, typical live rock music.
Hearing Damage   125 Pneumatic riveter at 4 feet.
Permanent Hearing Damage   132 Very loud rock concert, 50 feet in front of speaker.
Eardrum Rupture   150 Jet takeoff at 75 feet.
Immediate   180 Jet engine at 1 foot.
    194 Loudest sound in air, air particle distortion.

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