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How is sound measured?

David M. Vernick, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)
A sound's intensity is measured in decibel (dB) levels. Decibels are not precise units of measurement, like feet or yards, but rather a scale of progression. Every increase of 10 dB is significant -- it's not an additional 10 units but rather 10 times the original decibel level. The softest sound that an adult with normal hearing can hear is 0 dB, and the loudest sound, the sound of a rocket taking off, is more than 180 dB.
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Sound is measured in decibels. A whisper is 30 decibels. Normal conversation is 60 decibels. A power lawn mower is 90 decibels. Rock concerts are 120 decibels. A shotgun blast or explosion is 140 decibels. Anything below 80 decibels (produced by a typical vacuum cleaner) is fine for the ears, but louder noises can cause the cells irreparable damage.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.