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When inside at home most people reported that noise was greatest from appliances, TV, music, traffic, and the greatest source of this noise nuisance was their neighbours.

When outside most people reported noise from appliances and traffic. Other major sources of noise are aircraft and children.

Some familiar noises and their loudness are listed below:

Source of noise Sound level in dB
Breathing 10
Rustle of leaves 15
Whisper 20
Speech 60
Alarm clock 70
Traffic 60 to 90
Diesel or Electric Train 80
Truck 90
Food blender 95
Pneumatic drill (at 3 metres) 110
Propeller driven aircraft (at 30 metres) 120
Jet aircraft (at 30 metres) 140
Jet (taking off and flying overhead at 450 m) 108
Rocket launching 180

Aircraft noise

Perhaps 16 million people are exposed to aircraft noise globally. The Commission on aircraft noise (CAN) set up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) deals with aircraft noise. The source of sonic booms caused by supersonic aircraft, and aircraft noise in general is difficult to trace.


The addition of amplifiers to music has led to high levels of noise. The smallest pop group with its 200-Watt amplifier can make music louder than a 100-piece symphony orchestra. Hearing damage from music depends not only on the volume but also on the number of concerts played or attended as seen in the table below.

The noise limit or Threshold Limit Value (TLV) is:

90 dB for eight hours

95 dB for four hours

100 dB for 15 minutes

Noise Limits

The maximum permissible noise levels in decibels dB can be seen below.

Road traffic near residential areas 70
Noise on building sites 70
When ear protection should be worn 85
Factory work (8 hour, 5 days a week) 90
Prolonged noise causing permanent damage 100
Threshold of pain 120
Absolute maximum with ears unprotected 135
Absolute limit with ears protected 150
Eardrum rupture 180
Lung damage 194

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