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How Loud Is 65 Decibels (dB)? (With Noise Comparison Chart)

Frowning mom and son sit on couch with closed eyes and cover ears

Researching decibel ratings is crucial when buying new devices and appliances if you want a comfortable home. At roughly the volume of a normal conversation, 65 decibels is a decent benchmark for determining a tolerable noise level. However, decibel levels are more abstract to everyday people than measurements of time and distance. How loud is 65 decibels, and will it be too noisy or just right for you? Let’s find out with this comparison of everyday sounds.

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How Loud Is 65 Decibels?

Decibel Level Noise Source
10 dB Breathing
20 dB Mosquito buzzing, ticking watch
30 dB Whisper, rustling leaves
40 dB Running refrigerator, ambient room noise
50 dB Dishwasher, rainfall
65 dB Normal conversation
70 dB Vacuum cleaner, city traffic
80 dB Garbage disposal, noisy restaurant
90 dB Lawnmower, passing subway train
100 dB Night club, motorcycle

A conversation about 3 feet apart between two people registers at roughly 65 decibels. It’s similar to a business office or the noise inside a running car. From a sound perception standpoint, 65 decibels is about twice as loud as a modern dishwasher. Perceived sound is crucial because it doesn’t reflect the sound intensity as we measure it in decibels.

Decibel levels are logarithmic. Every 10-decibel difference in intensity equals a ten-fold change. For instance, 10 dB is ten times louder than 0 dB, 20 dB is 100 times noisier, and 30 dB is 1,000 times louder. At 65 decibels, a typical chat is ten times louder than a 55-decibel dishwasher and 100 times louder than a 45-decibel refrigerator.

The concept of the sound intensity change might be confusing if a conversation doesn’t seem like it’s ten times louder than a running appliance. When the sound pressure (decibels) increases tenfold, we perceive it as only two times louder. A 65-decibel conversation between two people may be 10 times more intense than a 55-decibel dishwasher, but we’ll only perceive it as twice as loud.

The perceived volume also follows a logarithmic rule. The difference between 10 dB and 20 dB is similar to the change from 30 dB to 40 dB. We’ll perceive a buzzing mosquito at 20 dB as being twice as loud as 10-dB breathing, while a 30-dB whisper is four times the noise level, and rainfall at 50 dB is 16 times louder.

two girls talking
Image By: Petra, Pixabay

How 65 Decibels Changes Over Distance

Distance is essential when gauging the sound intensity of a source because noises become less intense as you move away. According to the inverse square law of acoustics, sound levels drop by 6 decibels with every doubling of the distance from a source. If a person talking to you at 65 dB stands 3 feet in front of you, you’ll hear them at 59 dB when you stand 6 feet away and 53 dB when you’re 12 feet apart.

Can 65 Decibels Cause Hearing Loss?

Repeated and prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause permanent noise-induced hearing loss. Loud noises damage the delicate hair cells that transmit sound through the ear and, in extreme cases, could even rupture the eardrum.

As exposure to loud sounds lengthens, the damage and subsequent hearing loss continue to increase. More intense sounds take less time to cause permanent hearing damage. Humans generally begin to suffer hearing loss at 85 dBA over 8 hours of exposure, but noises over 120 dBA can cause immediate damage.

Generally, the tolerance time shortens by half with every 3-decibel increase beyond 85 dBA. For instance, you can safely listen to 88-dBA noises for up to 4 hours, 91-dBA noises for 2 hours, and sounds at 94-dBA for only 1 hour before hearing loss begins to set in.

With 85 dBA being the tolerance threshold, it’s unlikely that a 65-dB noise will cause any hearing loss, no matter the exposure time. Sounds between 55 and 85 decibels fall in the “potentially disturbing or annoying” range. Prolonged exposure may be distracting or irritating, but there’s little chance of permanent physical damage.

Protect Your Hearing

It’s rare to have an innate sense for the hearing loss threshold, so as a rule of thumb, you can consider a sound that drowns out a conversation to be potentially damaging. If you’re having trouble hearing someone standing next to you, consider wearing ear protection or moving away from the loud noise.

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Final Thoughts

Noise is relative. Every person’s perception of decibel levels at various frequencies is different, as are their tolerances. To find out how loud 65 decibels is to you, download a decibel meter app, such as Decibel X or the NIOSH Sound Level Meter, and test it around the house. With a better understanding of your personal volume preferences, those all-important decibel ratings will be much easier to interpret.

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Featured Image Credit: DimaBerlin, Shutterstock


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