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Street & Siren Noise

Recently, State Representative Christian Mitchell and I collaborated on legislation that would reduce the volume of emergency vehicle decibel levels, as well as calls for the impoundment of motorcycles with illegal exhausts after a third violation. To see the full text of HB 2402, click here.


Excessive noise is a public health hazard, according to the World Health Organization.  How can I tell if I’m listening to dangerous levels:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard

  • You can’t hear someone three feet away from you

  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area

  • You have pain or ringing in your ears (called ‘tinnitus’) after exposure to noise


Excessive noise can cause:

  • Hearing loss

    • The louder the sound, the more damage it can cause to your hearing.  Sound is measured in units called decibels; any sound at or above 85 decibels (see noise chart following) can damage your hearing.

    • Mobile devices can reach 105 decibels – 100 times more intense than 85 decibels.

    • The National Institutes of Health states that one in four Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) related to noise exposure during occupational or leisure activities.


  • Cardiovascular Disease

    • Noise is stressful and when you’re exposed to loud noise, stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline become elevated.  Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure.


  • Sleep Deprivation

    • Uninterrupted sleep is known to be a prerequisite for good physiologic and mental functioning in healthy individuals.

    • Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep.

    • When sleep disruption becomes chronic, the results are mood changes, reduction in performance and other long-term effects on health and well-being.


  • Increases in frequency of antisocial behavior

    • Feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, and violent thoughts or actions.


  • Negative effects on community development

    • Degrading residential, social and learning environments with corresponding economic losses.


Prevent harmful effects from excessive noise three simple ways:

  • Turn down the sound

  • Walk away from the noise

  • Wear hearing protection

How loud is too loud? The noise chart below lists average decibel levels for everyday sounds around you.



150 dB = fireworks at 3 feet

140 dB = firearms, jet engine

130 dB = jackhammer

120 dB = jet plane takeoff, siren


Extremely Loud

110 dB = maximum output of some MP3 players, model airplane, chain saw

106 dB = gas lawn mower, snowblower

100 dB = hand drill, pneumatic drill

90 dB = subway, passing motorcycle


Very Loud

80–90 dB = blow-dryer, kitchen blender, food processor

70 dB = busy traffic, vacuum cleaner, alarm clock



60 dB = typical conversation, dishwasher, clothes dryer

50 dB = moderate rainfall

40 dB = quiet room



30 dB = whisper, quiet library


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