What is a Decibel?

A decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement that measures sound intensity. Sound waves are determined by the frequency and amplitude of the waves. Frequency, often measured in Hertz (Hz), is the pitch of a sound while amplitude, measured in decibels (dB), is the loudness of a sound. Both loudness and pitch are subjective attributes that allow us to hear. There is a high correlation between the two, so a change in pitch can also result in a change of loudness.

The smallest audible sound on a decibel scale is 0 dB, which is very close to complete silence. A sound that is 10 times more powerful is considered to be 10 dB, and a sound that is 100 times more powerful is considered to be 20 dB, and so forth.

Being exposed to sounds above 85 decibels for a long period of time can cause hearing loss especially if you are not using any kind of hearing protection, like earplugs. Unfortunately, most of us do not realize how damaging these loud sound decibel levels can be for our hearing health. That’s why we recommend people learn about the sounds they are constantly exposed to in addition to understanding the noise environment around them. 

Below are some common sounds and their respective decibel ratings: 

  • A Whisper – 30 dB
  • Quiet Office or Refridgerator – 50 dB
  • Normal Conversation or Air Conditioner – 60 dB
  • Shower or Dishwasher – 70 dB
  • Alarm Clock or Garbage Disposal – 80 dB

Decibels and Hearing Loss

There are different types of hearing loss that can be caused by various reasons. A hearing test with a hearing health professional can help identify areas of hearing loss, however, most hearing tests do not cover the entire sound frequency spectrum that can be recognized by humans.

To prevent hearing loss, we can take precautions to protect our ears from the sounds in our environment and surroundings. Remembering to wear ear plugs in extremely noisy environments like at concerts or sporting events can help as they are inexpensive as well. If you are not sure about what type of hearing protection is best fit for you, consider consulting a hearing healthcare professional.

Hearing aid users should be mindful of the dB levels in their surroundings. Because hearing aids and other similar devices amplify sounds in the environment, people with existing hearing loss are still susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss too. Work with your hearing healthcare professional to determine the appropriate type of hearing protection that will let you wear your hearing device safely while still hearing sounds in your environment. 

Thank you for reading about what a decibel is and how you can take preventative steps to ensure that you have healthy hearing. We hope that this was informative and helped you better understand the common sounds and their respective decibel ratings.

As previously mentioned, the signs and symptoms listed here do not replace formal audiometry conducted by your doctor. Be sure to have your hearing tested regularly with a hearing healthcare professional. Together, you can develop an individualized plan to prevent, protect, and better manage your hearing health.

AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at www.audiocardio.com.



  • https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52514-What-is-a-decibel
  • https://science.howstuffworks.com/question124.htm