Any sound over 85 decibels (dB) has the potential to cause hearing damage over time. The louder the sound, the shorter the time it takes to cause the damage. Here is the important part: once the damage is done, it can’t be undone—ever!
To complicate matters, the effects of that damage probably won’t appear until later in life. So if you think you aren’t exposing yourself to dangerous sound levels because you aren’t experiencing any warning signs, think again. Whatever you can do to protect your hearing now will directly benefit the 30, 40, and 50 year old musician inside of you. So pay it forward. If you can still hear every nuance of a Beethoven symphony when you are 50, it will be thanks to the actions you put in place today.
The chart below shows the safe time exposures for different decibel levels. It is important to remember that the decibel scale is logarithmic not linear. What this means is a 10 dB increase in sound represents a sound 10 times louder in volume. A 20 dB increase represents a sound 100 times louder and a 30 dB increase, a sound 1,000 times louder!! This is why the times for safe exposure drop so rapidly as the decibel levels rise.