Hearing Loss and Decibel Levels


Damaging Decibels

Sounds above 90 decibels (dB, a measurement of the loudness or strength of sound vibration) may cause vibrations intense enough to damage the inner ear, especially if the sound continues for a long time. A jackhammer produces a sustained noise level of 120 dB, the noise from a large truck can peak at 90 dB, and the average noise level inside the cabin of an airplane can be between 90 and 100 dB over the duration of your flight. If you turn up your iPod or car radio to drown out the racket around you, you are actually blasting your ears with a dangerous level of sound. This combination of noise can cause hearing damage in a very short period of time.  For further information, please visit the Dangerous Decibels website.




The chart above represents levels of noise measured in decibels (dB), a measurement of the loudness or strength of sound vibration. Sounds (measured in dB) are coded green (lower) – yellow (medium to loud) – red (loud) and the permissible exposure times are noted before hearing damage begins to occur.

Sound exposure facts:

  • Daily activities such as speech take place in the 60 – 80 dBA range (the GREEN zone) and are safe without hearing loss for up to 12 hours.
  • Exposure to sounds of 85 dBA are safe for up to eight hours. Sounds above 85 dBA may cause damage to the delicate sensory cells of the inner ear, especially if sound is very loud or if it continues for a long time without a break (more than eight hours). These sensory cells in the inner ear typically do not recover once damaged; once they are gone, they are never replaced.
  • The dynamic range of music, whether performed by a symphony orchestra, brass band, or at a rock concert, can peak at 95 dBA or above.
  • 100 dBA of sustained sound can cause hearing damage after just 5 minutes! The roar of a cheering Saints crowd enclosed in the Superdome can peak at 100 dBA or higher. Sounds pouring out of some blocks of Bourbon St. can also peak at 100 dBA or higher.
  • 130 dBA, the sustained noise of a jet engine from 100 feet away can cause hearing damage in under 5 minutes.



practice safe sounds


Preserve New Orleans’ sounds, the soul of the New Orleans’ cultural heritage and the driving force of our tourist economy.


Steps to Prevent Hearing Loss:

1. Turn down the volume

2. Take a break in a quiet space


3. Never stand in front of a speaker! Put some distance between you and the sound source.

4. Wear protective earplugs when you can’t control the volume.



Support music venues that Practice Safe Sounds.

Educate yourself about safe sounds and monitor your dB levels.

Download and use free cell phone apps to measure dB levels.

Spread the word to fellow musicians and music lovers.


The hearing you save may be your own.


Lonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey
BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2010:chap
CREDITS: Christophe Jackson for chart development, and Katherine Klimitas for chart design.