Noise Damage: How Rising Sound Levels May be Harming Your Health

Noise has become more than a nuisance. It is a health hazard

Credit: Flickr /pamhule

As noise levels rise, so, too, do health problems

Noise has become more than a nuisance. It is a health hazard

In 1905, Nobel-prize winning bacteriologist Robert Koch said that the day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague. As civilization has become more mechanized, more urbanized, and more digitized, the amount of noise has increased in tandem.  

Noise has been linked to:

  • insomnia
  • aggression
  • heart disease
  • mental health
  • low academic achievement
  • decreased longevity.  

Because of industrial and recreational noise, we are losing our hearing at a faster rate than our parents and grandparents. According to Statistics Canada, hearing loss is the fourth most prevalent disability in Canada. And hearing loss is the number one occupational hazard worldwide.

  • an estimated three million Canadian adults suffer from hearing problems
  • hearing loss in Canadian second-graders has risen by 280% over the last 10 years
  • one in eight American children, about five million, has some noise-induced hearing loss.
  • in the European Union, an estimated 20 percent of the population, approximately 80 million people, suffer from noise levels that scientists and health experts consider to be unacceptable. 

Measuring the Effects of Sound

Sound is measured in decibels. When a sound reaches a level of 85dB, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing. According to, for every 3 dBAs over 85 dBA, the amount of time you can be exposed to the sound before hearing loss is cut in half.

 Here are some things to consider:

  • a lawnmower is 90 dB
  • the sound from an iPod Shuffle has been measured at 115 dBs
  • Listening to music on earphones at a standard volume level 5, the sound reaches a level of 100 dBAs. After just 15 minutes per day, this is loud enough to cause permanent damage
  • A bulldozer that is idling, not actively bulldozing, is loud enough at 85 dB to cause permanent damage after only one 8-hour work day
  • A chain saw from 1m away is 110dBA and so is a siren at 10m distance

Sources of noise emitting sound at decibel levels from 120 to 150 can cause noise-induced hearing loss. These include:

  • motorcycles
  • firecrackers
  • small firearms

Learn more about preventing hearing damage in a noisy world.