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How Loud Is a Train Horn In Decibels (dB)? With Noise Comparison Chart


Federal law requires train horns to be loud so that people at all public crossings can hear the train approaching. The Department of Transportation vehicle safety guidelines suggests that every train needs to have a horn that emits sounds passengers can hear from 200 feet away. That’s why most train horns produce a sound that ranges from 96 decibels to 110 decibels.

Sounds that loud can significantly impact our hearing, so it’s essential to be aware of loud noises in your surroundings and know what kind of impact they have on your hearing.

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Which Sounds Are Safe for Our Ears?

Hearing a loud noise close by can result in immediate hearing loss. Typically, 70 decibels and lower sounds are entirely safe for our ears. Any sound over 75 decibels can irritate you, while sounds over 90 decibels can damage your hearing.

Of course, just because a sound may seem loud, its intensity is what decides the impact on your hearing. You’re more prone to hearing loss when the intensity of the sound is higher, but not when the sound gets louder.

Your distance from the sound will also depend on how it will affect your hearing. If the sound is far away from you, likely, you won’t even notice it, while you could suffer severe damage if you hear it close by.

Another thing to remember is that even sounds that are not too loud in decibels can harm your hearing if you listen to them for extended periods. Noises at around 85 decibels can cause hearing damage in a couple of hours, sounds at 100 decibels can cause severe damage in 15 minutes, while sounds at 110 decibels will cause hearing loss in 2 minutes.

City of Africa
Image Credit: jozuadouglas, Pixabay

Train Horn Noise Compared to Other Sounds

A train horn needs to be very loud to raise the attention of all people that get near the train. Compared to other everyday sounds, a train horn is relatively loud but not as loud as rifles and other guns, which can cause permanent damage and pain after less than one second. If you were to expose yourself to the sound of a train horn for a continuous 2 minutes, you would experience permanent hearing damage.

Common sounds Loudness(dB) Amount of damage after continuous exposure
Quiet breathing 10 dB  




All sounds that are 60 dB or lower do not cause any hearing damage.

Whispering 20 dB
Light rain 30 dB
Quiet office 40 dB
Refrigerator 50 dB
A regular conversation 60 dB
A vacuum cleaner 70 dB These noises might be annoying but will not cause any hearing damage.
Traffic 80–85 dB
Sander 90 dB Hearing damage may occur after 2 hours.
Motorcycle 95 dB Hearing damage is possible after an hour of exposure.
Electric drill 100 dB Hearing damage or loss is possible after 15 minutes of exposure.
A train horn 110 dB Hearing loss may occur in less than 2 minutes of continuous exposure.
Concert, ambulance siren 120–125 dB Hearing damage and loss may occur in less than 10 seconds of being exposed.
Squeaky toy held to ear, Jackhammer 130–135 dB Hearing damage may occur after more than a second.
Airplane taking off 140 dB
Firecrackers 150 dB  


Exposure to these sounds for only a second can result in hearing loss and permanent damage.

Rifle 163 dB
Handgun, shotgun 166–170 dB
Rocket Launch 189 dB
red train in railroad
Image Credit: Piqsels

Signs That It’s Way Too Loud at Your Location

When you’re at a party, nightclub, or a concert, things can become loud due to the music and atmosphere, so you’ll probably need to raise your voice to talk to your friends. You should be able to hear people 3 feet away from you clearly. This is also the case for working near trains or near railroads. If you are exposed to the sounds of trains daily and constantly, you may already have some hearing damage.

Whenever you notice that you can’t use your regular voice to communicate, the area is way too loud.

We expose ourselves to loud sounds daily, such as listening to music on headphones, and although we don’t notice any changes, our hearing can suffer later. The more frequent exposure to loud noises means quicker hearing loss.

man using ear phones
Image Credit: Piqsels

Side Effects of Frequently Being Exposed to Train Horns

Over time, many sounds can cause issues with your hearing, and they may begin as a minor irritation but could end up in hearing loss. Below you can see a list of the most common side effects of frequent exposure to train horns since their sound is one of the loudest in everyday life.

Side effects of exposure to loud sounds
  • Buzzing/ringing sound in your ears
  • Headaches
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Isolation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Hearing loss

Since these issues can happen when you least expect them, it’s best to be prepared and know how to protect your hearing when you encounter loud train horns.

Man headache
Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Protect Your Hearing From Loud Noises?

Many jobs require wearing ear protection for handling loud equipment, especially for construction workers and people exposed to train horns frequently. It is essential to wear ear protection when dealing with sounds higher than 90 dB. There are a couple of simple ways to protect your hearing when you find yourself in this situation.

How to protect your hearing
  • Reduce exposure to loud noises: You should reduce your exposure to loud noises by turning down your stereo or TV or moving away from loud noises. If you are exposed to train horns daily, using hearing protection can help save your hearing in the long run.
  • Avoid too much noise: You can still go to loud parties or concerts, but avoid going to too many loud spots in one week. It’s best to be moderate and give your ears a rest now and then.
  • Get hearing protection gear: Earplugs, earmuffs, and noise-canceling headphones can sometimes be your best friend. You should use them if your workspace is too loud.
  • Let your ears rest: Even when you expose yourself to loud noises, try to rest your ears for about 12+ hours daily.
man wearing ear muffs
Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock

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After reading this article, we hope you understand the loudness of train horns a little better. Train horns are very loud and can cause hearing damage and hearing loss if you are exposed to them for extended periods. When dealing with train horns and other air horns, it is crucial to wear proper ear protection to save your hearing from damage. Comparing different sounds may give you a clear view of just how loud a train horn can be.

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Featured Image Credit: Ray Miller, Pixabay


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