A Ranking of Noises – The Loudest Noises in NYC

by Michael Lentin Just like one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, one man’s music can be another man’s noise. Nowhere is that more true than in New York City. As the most populous city in the US, and an incredibly popular tourist attraction, the Big Apple is buzzing at all hours of the day. From cars and construction to nightclubs and neighbors, the auricle-assault can range from slightly annoying to utterly excruciating. In fact, the mayor has even instituted noise checkpoints. Fines for violating city noise policies range from $45 all the way to $25,000! To determine the effect of noise on the ears of NYC residents, police officers use decibel meters. A decibel (dB) is the universal unit of sound and, as a logarithmic unit, it means that a noise measuring 30 decibels is actually 10 times louder than a noise registering at 20 decibels. According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, normal conversation in an average home registers at around 50 decibels. An alarm clock is approximately 80 decibels (annoying) while a jackhammer is 110 (painful). Most noise levels are actually given in dBA, which are decibels adjusted to reflect the ear’s response to different frequencies of sound. Because human ears are more fine-tuned to higher frequencies, deep notes can be less irritating even if they are technically “louder” than other noises. For example, a thumping bass can blend into the background while a barking dog drives you crazy, even if the decibel levels are the same. So, what’s the source of all this noise in NYC? See below.

Microsoft Word - A Ranking of Noises - The Loudest Noises in NYC

*Though the average stereo System registers around 100 decibels, a phenomenon known “db drag racing”, a competition to see which car stereo can reach the most ear-splitting level, has set a record of 174.2 decibels. This is nearly loud enough to shatter your bones! More information about these common noises can be found in the city’s Noise Code Guideline. It is important to know the risk associated with certain sounds, as prolonged exposure to levels as low as 85 dB can cause damage. The average pain threshold is 110 dB, so you could put your hearing in jeopardy before a sound even registers as physically painful. *Though the average stereo System registers around 100 decibels, a phenomenon known “db drag racing”, a competition to see which car stereo can reach the most ear-splitting level, has set a record of 174.2 decibels. This is nearly loud enough to shatter your bones! More information about these common noises can be found in the city’s Noise Code Guideline. It is important to know the risk associated with certain sounds, as prolonged exposure to levels as low as 85 dB can cause damage. The average pain threshold is 110 dB, so you could put your hearing in jeopardy before a sound even registers as physically painful.

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Nowadays, all one needs is a smart phone to act as their own Commotion Cop. The noise issue in New York is so prevalent, there is even a movie about one such vigilante. To learn more about noise pollution, and how we can help you combat it without turning this fictional plot into reality, check out our blog.

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