Acceptable Sound Levels Explained

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A look at which sound levels are acceptable enough for certain environments

Back in the 1970s, the roar of the Stretford End was said to be as loud as a jet plane in take off. On taking off, the sound levels of an aeroplane with turbofan engines range from 80 to 110 decibels. It is worth noting that 1970s aircraft were louder than today’s equivalents. Their sound levels have been reduced, without compromising on their performance.

Sound levels image by Olivier Le Moal

Sound levels image by Olivier Le Moal (via Shutterstock).

Ambient noise has an effect on our performance at work or our ability to start a conversation. For some people, disorientating above a given point.

In a recording studio, background noise can ruin the live session or a future best-selling album. If too loud, the library is a less pleasant place for private study or a relaxed read. In offices, air conditioning and the hum of computer systems have an effect on the ambience.

Suitable Sound Levels

25 – 30 decibels

This is the most acceptable setting for theatres, concert halls, recording studios, prayer rooms, and public libraries. In a studio environment, this allows for a dry, clinical sound, and a clean recording. For prayer rooms and public libraries, this is an optimum environment for contemplation and study.

30 – 35 decibels

At a slightly higher volume range, these sound levels are ideal for conferences, classrooms, and lecture halls. This is loud enough for audible conversation and listening to speakers or lecturers.

40 – 45 decibels

With sound levels raised to allow for computer systems and air conditioning equipment, 40 to 45 decibels is acceptable enough for offices and courtrooms.

45 – 55 decibels

45 to 55 decibels are recommended sound levels for communal environments. Particularly reception areas, shops, public toilets, and open plan offices.

Any sound up to 60 decibels is generally regarded as ‘audible’. This is the loudness of a typical conversation. Listening to any sound at 85 dB or above for eight hours could result in permanent hearing loss.

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