Decibels are the measurement unit for the level of sound. Noise level is measured on a logarithmic scale, with the threshold of hearing at 0 decibels. On this scale, a typical conversation is approximately at 60 decibels, a vacuum cleaner at 70 decibels, and a jackhammer at 100 decibels.
According to OSHA, high sound level exposure is linked to hearing loss, particularly if the exposure to loud noises is prolonged over time. OSHA's permissible exposure limit is approximately 90 decibels.
Are musical instruments safe to perform? Consider the graph below, excerpted from Where Does Sound Come From? Volume 2, Revised Ed., from Schottenbauer Publishing:
- Approximately what is the decibel level of the ambient sound in the room?
- Approximately what is the decibel level of the trumpet?
Decibel readings are the theme of Where Does Sound Come From? Volume 2, Revised Ed., from Schottenbauer Publishing. Students can use these measurements to understand the nature of sound, by comparing and contrasting graphs from 27 musical instruments, including strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, plus voice.