If you work somewhere noisy, and the decibel level is over 80dB(A), you’re trained & educated to understand the risks involved in working in that kind of noisy environment and hearing protection is made available. At 85dB(A) and above hearing protection should be provided.

But in social environments, there are no rules, so at a gig or in a club you might see musicians wearing hearing protection, the bar staff may have earplugs in – but no one would tell you to wear them. Earplugs won’t usually be provided – so out of everyone there, you’re the one at risk.


“I suffer from tinnitus and am often exposed to loud noises but I’ve never been taught about protecting hearing…” Anonymous – BTA earplug survey 2015

Clubs and bars don’t usually have any indicator to show you how loud is dangerously loud, so really you’re on your own. The chart below should give you an idea of what’s safe, and more importantly, what isn’t.

The facts — Decibel level and maximum exposure time.

A decibel dB(A), is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound – 85dB(A) and above is the level at which noise becomes unsafe without the use of hearing protection.

85dB / Kitchen blender: 8 hours
88dB / Forklift truck: 4 hours
91dB / Tube train: 2 hours
94dB / Lawnmower: 1 hour
97dB / Industrial fire alarm: 30 min
100dB / Bulldozer, handheld drill: 15 min
103dB / MP3 player at full volume: 7.5 min
106dB / Motorbike: 3.75 min
109dB / Crying baby: 112 seconds
112dB / Live rock band: 66 seconds
115dB / Ambulance siren: 33 seconds

More awareness definitely needs to be made about the danger of being exposed to noise without ear protection. People think tinnitus is something that won’t happen to them. I wish I had been more aware.” Anonymous – BTA earplug survey 2015