If you like your music loud–which, let’s face it, is probably all of us–you should probably take a look at this FiveThirtyEight article that explains and charts the loudest sounds every recorded–proffered by a toddler, no less!
“Consider this piece of history,” says author Maggie Koerth-Baker, responding to a request by three year-old Kara Jo to hear the loudest sound in the world, before telling the story of a volcanic eruption on Aug. 27, 1883:
[R]anchers on a sheep camp…heard a sound like two shots from a rifle. At that very moment, the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa was blowing itself to bits 2,233 miles away. Scientists think this is probably the loudest sound humans have ever accurately measured. Not only are there records of people hearing the sound of Krakatoa thousands of miles away, there is also physical evidence that the sound of the volcano’s explosion traveled all the way around the globe multiple times.
Going on to explain how this is possible with a very deft metaphor of a hip-check reverberating through a crowded subway, Koerth-Baker then listed a chart of decibels organized from quietest to loudest:
|A mosquito from 20 feet away||0|
|Conversation at home||50|
|A motorcycle from 25 feet away||90|
|Chelyabinsk meteor from 400 miles away||✓||90|
|Mine crushing machine from 328 feet away||✓||127|
|Deck of an aircraft carrier||140|
|NASA’s acoustic testing chamber for satellites||163|
|Krakatoa from 100 miles away||172|
|Sperm whale echolocation||174|
|Saturn V Rocket||204|
Leaving aside the relativities of not being able to hear sound in space, and the fact that water density muffles an extremely high-decibel whale echolocation, the omission of electric guitar is noticeably absent. But thanks to a chart assembled on LiveScience, we have the figure of 150 decibels for a rock music crescendo–somewhere between the deck of an aircraft carrier and NASA’s acoustic testing chamber.
There is some practical advice about how to avoid deafness, such as using earbuds, and using a combination of drapes, carpeting, and rubber mats under appliances to muffle sounds in one’s home. Don’t say you weren’t warned!