How Loud Is a Jet Engine in Decibels (dB)?
If you’ve ever heard a jet start, you know they’re ear-piercingly loud. In decibels (dB), a typical jet engine weighs in at roughly 160dB. Not that you would hear it—the human eardrums can only withstand up to 150 dB before they rupture. From about 100 feet away, the same sound would be between 140 dB and150 dB, which is still enough to cause permanent hearing damage.
Few other sounds compare in decibels to the power of a jet engine, but some come surprisingly close. Let’s check out how a jet engine fares against some of the other loudest sounds on Earth.
How Do Decibels Work?
Decibels are a way of measuring how loud a sound is. What makes decibels different from other measurements is that they scale logarithmically instead of linearly. In layman’s terms, every 10 decibels increases in volume 10 times. For instance, 20 dB is 10 times louder than 10 dB, and 100 dB is 10 times louder than 90 dB. By extrapolation, 100 dB is roughly 10,000 times louder than 10 dB.
So, when you’re looking at different decibel values, every decibel makes a big difference. Keep this in mind as you read on to the next section, where we list common sounds from quietest to loudest in decibels.
Jet Engine vs. Other Sounds
Jet engines are incredibly loud, but how loud are they compared to some other quiet and loud sounds? Still very loud, as it turns out. Let’s take a look at some common sounds and how they match up against a jet engine in volume.
|Source of sound||Volume in decibels (dB)|
|Quietest room on Earth (Microsoft facility)||-20 dB|
|Normal breathing||10 dB|
|Buzzing mosquito||20 dB|
|Refrigerator hum||40 dB|
|Typical conversation||50 dB to 60 dB|
|Vacuum cleaner||70 dB|
|Rock concert||110 dB to 140 dB|
|Hearing damage threshold||120 dB|
|Threshold of pain||130 dB|
|Jet engine at 100 feet away||150 dB|
|Jet engine at 3 feet away||160 dB|
|Stun grenade||170 dB to 180 dB|
|Theoretically loudest undistorted sound possible at sea level||194 dB|
As we see from this table, jet engines are among the upper limit of the loudest sounds on Earth, with only stun grenades measuring louder.
The average person isn’t typically exposed to sounds above 100 dB on a regular basis, but those who are risk damage to their hearing. In bursts, we can tolerate up to 120 dB before we risk potentially permanent damage to our eardrums and hearing.
Above 150 dB, you get into the realm of bursting your lungs or other sensitive organs, and most things louder than that are theoretical or highly controlled. You don’t see people hanging out by jet engines revving up for takeoff, and even airport security forces typically wear hearing protection.
For prolonged periods of time, noises 70 dB and above should be avoided at all costs. We’re talking inside factories, near trains, or near other heavy equipment. There’s a reason why workers in those industries are provided hearing protection.
How Can I Take Care of My Hearing?
Many people who grow up going to rock concerts find themselves with irreversible damage to their hearing as adults. Similarly, eschewing hearing protection in industrial jobs can damage hearing too. A persistent ringing, or tinnitus, is the most obvious and common symptom of permanent hearing damage.
Below, we’ll list some of the best ways you can avoid long-term hearing damage and keep your hearing intact for a long time to come.
- Wear earplugs or other hearing protection around loud noises like heavy equipment, concerts, etc.
- When listening to music or other loud media, turn the volume down a little bit.
- Don’t clean your ears with cotton swabs or other pointed objects.
- Consider getting a hearing test, especially if you work in a noisy environment. Many workplaces will provide these tests.
- After you’re exposed to loud noises, try to let your ears recover in a quiet area.
Jet engines are one of the loudest sounds on the planet, measuring a staggering 160 dB from three away. Stun grenades are a bit louder, but little else comes close. Avoid these sounds at all costs if you value your hearing, as they risk permanent damage.
Featured Image Credit: aappp, Shutterstock