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How Much Noise Should You Live With?

By Sandy Schroeder

The questions about noise pollution are growing louder as some people compare secondhand noise levels to the dangers of secondhand smoke. If you look around your home, your streets and your community, how much noise do you live with?

When you eat in a noisy restaurant you may be enduring 70 decibels of noise. When a garbage truck goes by, that’s 100 decibels. Police sirens hit 120 decibels. A chainsaw is 110 and a jackhammer generates 130 decibels, according to the Earth Journalism Network.

Noise researchers say 85 decibels can cause permanent damage to the inner ear hair cells, and cause hearing loss. In comparison, normal conversations are usually about 60 decibels. An individual’s earphone music system can hit 110 decibels, which can cause permanent damage after 15 minutes per day, according to

Noise Also Affects the Heart

University of Michigan researchers linked high decibel levels with heart disease and attacks. When noise is more than 50 decibels, the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack goes up, according to the researchers.

How People Are Fighting Back

Around the U.S., people are fighting back. In Phoenix millions of tires have been recycled into concrete to resurface roads and muffle noise. Local officials say more than 6,000 recycled tires are used in each mile of a four-lane highway.

Elkhart, Indiana is striking back against hot rods and motorcycles with exhaust systems that generate 125 decibels. Fines range from $250 for a first ticket to $1,000 for a third ticket. New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., are all struggling with excessive helicopter flights.

Agreeing on Safe Levels

As new decibel safety levels are established, the European Union recommends 40 decibels at night “to protect human health” with highway noise limited to 50 decibels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said noise below an average of 70 decibels over 24 hours is safe and won’t cause hearing loss.

We all need to be aware of the issue and do as much as we can to lower noise levels. 

At home, we can take steps to quiet everything down. provides information on ways to block street noise, soften inside sound with sound-absorbing materials, and handle sound systems.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Phoenix, Ariz.

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