Noise in the Home

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Noise in the Home Fact Sheet

Home Sweet Home?
Home - the place where we retreat from the hustle and bustle of every day life. But, too often, the peace and quiet of this haven is interrupted by noise from our neighbors, street traffic, music blaring in the next apartment, train whistles and planes flying overhead. And frequently, the noise is of our own making - the noise we create with the vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, television sets, hair dryers, dishwashers, washing machines, blenders and other home appliances. Many of these noises are not loud enough to pose a hearing risk, but they can increase stress and affect our health and well-being. Other common household items, such as noisy toys, garden equipment and loud stereos, do pose a threat to our hearing, and it is important to limit their use.

How Loud is Too Loud?
To know if a sound is loud enough to cause damage to your ears, it is important to know both the level of intensity (measured in decibels, dBA) and the length of exposure to the sound. Continued exposure to noise above 85 decibels (dBA) over time, will eventually harm hearing. In general, the louder the sound, the less time required before damage occurs. Noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative across the life-span and though preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. If you notice a buzzing or ringing in your ears, or that speech is muffled after exposure to noise, then the noise is too loud. Have your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist.

Dangerous Noise Sources in the Home
The following are examples of noise sources and sound levels of commonly found items in the home:

  • Toys Many toys designed to stimulate our children can be dangerously loud and pose a risk to our children's hearing. Rattles, squeaky toys, toy musical instruments and toy phones have been measured up to 140 dBA and beyond. Click here to read the Noise Center's Noisy Toy Fact Sheet.
  • Personal Stereo Systems with Headphones Measured at up to 112 dBA, if turned up to maximum levels, these systems pose a risk to hearing. Individuals who choose to listen to music this loud, for several hours a day, face an almost inevitable hearing loss. Click here to read the Noise Center's Personal Stereo System Fact Sheet.
  • Garden Equipment and Power Tools Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws and other power tools can be as loud as 130 dBA and pose a serious risk to those who operate them. These loud sounds can create an environment that is not conducive to play, study, sleep or even carry on normal conversation.
  • Home Appliances Blenders, electric mixers, dishwashers, washing machines, stove fans, hair dryers and vacuum cleaners can measure up to 90 dBA and beyond and with continued use add to the cumulative effect of noise in a person's life.

Steps to Preserve the Peace and Quiet in Your Home
Follow these steps to create a quieter and more peaceful home environment:

  • Pay attention to the noises around you and whenever possible, turn down the volume.
  • Limit exposure time to loud noise sources in the home.
  • Wear adequate hearing protection such as foam ear plugs or ear muffs when using loud equipment.
  • Buy quiet products. Contact the Consumer Products Safety Commission and the manufacturer of noisy products.
  • Try not to run all appliances in your kitchen at the same time.
  • Make your home acoustically sound by following recommendations of the National Bureau of Standards:
    • Place vibration mounts under major appliances and foam pads under small appliances.
    • Use window drapes.
    • Install padded carpeting, vinyl tile or thick linoleum to absorb sound.
    • Seal holes or cracks in doors and windows with caulking or a minimum expansion foam sealant
    • Replace metal garbage cans with plastic cans.