For city dwellers accustomed to enduring the noises of urban life each and every day, the realization that they may actually be doing permanent damage to their ears may be completely lost. Knowing how loud common urban noises actually are can help you take measures to avoid later hearing loss.
The standard unit of measurement for noise is a decibel (dB). It’s a logarithmic unit, meaning that a 35-decibel sound is actually ten times louder than a 25-decibel sound. So, how many decibels is considered too loud?
Science has long proven that any noise reaching over an 85-decibel level can cause long-term damage to a human’s ears. For every 3 decibels over this 85-decibel limit, the “permissible” amount of time to listen to a noise without it causing damage is cut in half:
What’s interesting is that New York City has many daily sounds that reach, and even surpass, this dangerous level of noise.
To get your bearings of a decibel, a standard inside conversation registers at around 50 decibels, while a jackhammer can reach up to 130 decibels (and believe it or not, jackhammers are actually one of the most common causes for noise complaints in NYC).
Another interesting factor of decibels is that they’re typically measured with frequency pitches in mind. For instance, noises of lower frequencies (although actually louder) are considered to have less decibels because our ears are much more sensitive to noises of higher frequencies. When comparing a deep humming noise to the shrill shrieks of a crying baby, you’d probably agree that the shrieks are much more startling and irritating to the ears.
So, what are the decibel measurements of some of the most common noises in New York City?
54 decibels: Central Park
80 decibels: Garbage truck
85 decibels: City traffic (from inside car)
100 decibels: A motorcycle driving by
100 decibels: A barking dog
101 decibels: The Astor Place Subway
110 decibels: Car horn decibel from 1 meter
110 decibels: Street construction
115 decibels: Ambulance siren
120 decibels: A rock concert
120 decibels: Car alarm
As you can see, many sounds, like car horn decibels, deemed as common city noises reach well above the recommended 85-decibel limit. Of the approximately 40 million Americans with hearing loss, over ten million of them can claim noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as the culprit. Hearing aside, constant exposure to loud noises is also known to cause other health-related issues such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, digestion issues, and insomnia, to name a few.
So, how does one protect their ears in such a heavily noise polluted environment? It’s not as if residents can constantly walk around with their fingers in their ears. What’s a concerned citizen to do — especially when the noise can be heard from the privacy of their own homes?
Among the many attempted solutions to the loud decibels of NYC, one proven to be both realistic and effective is the installation of soundproof window systems, as most of the noise leaked into a home enters through the windows. CitiQuiet’s window systems eliminate 95% of outside noises, all without changing the appearance or functionality of your current windows.
Hearing damage is completely irreversible — so don’t wait until the damage is already done before making a change in your lifestyle. If you want to be able to hear your grandchildren one day without a bulky hearing aid dangling from your ear, consider beginning to take preventive measures to protect your ears today.