As our world slowly becomes more urban, it gets louder as well. More vehicles mean more noise. Higher populations mean more people, who produce additional noise.
The sounds of our daily lives can often fade into the background. Eventually, we may not pay attention to the roar of passing trains, or the grinding of drills at a nearby construction site. However, there are some sounds that are so loud they stand out from the sea of white noise. At best, they can cause you to lose sleep. At worst, they’re major factors in hearing damage. They can be heard from the next street, the other side of town, or even across the world! Read on to find out more about some of the loudest noises ever recorded.
1. Rock Concerts
Several bands over the years have competed for the title of the loudest live act ever. AC/DC in particular is known for concerts that can be heard from across town. Their usual volume was reported to be an incredible 130 decibels, or dB, before promoters told them to keep it down a bit. (For reference, a normal conversation is around 60 dB.) My Bloody Valentine is more conscientious; they regularly hand out free earplugs at shows and have signs at venues stressing the importance of using hearing protection.
Guinness Records has already canceled their “loudest band ever” category as they’re concerned about those who scope out loud concerts for confirmation of the record. (We do not recommend any serious independent research!)
There’s a serious purpose behind the dorky looking protective gear people wear when using firearms. Aside from safety glasses to protect their eyes from flying shrapnel, shooters need earplugs or heavy-duty earmuffs to prevent hearing damage. Gunshots, at their lowest level, still measure 150 dB! In comparison, a jet plane taking off produces a sound of 140 dB. Yikes. Just another reason to stay away from guns, kids.
Yes, they’re fun to watch and gorgeous against the night sky. But they also come with a huge wall of sound.
Different fireworks explode at different volumes. Some are designed with a focus on color, while other manufacturers literally want to give you the most bangs for your buck. Regardless, their usual range is from 150 dB to 175.
Thankfully, huge fireworks, like those at amusement parks, reach peak sound levels when they explode high above us. We’re spared the worst of it. Commercial fireworks, lighted by average humans like us, may seem louder but that’s just because we’re closer when they go off. Ensure your ears – and your limbs – are protected by retreating to a safe distance after lighting your fireworks.
4. Shuttle launch
Probably even more amazing to watch than fireworks, a shuttle launch is truly a rare thing to see. However, all those rocket engines required to get the spaceship off the ground produce so much noise that you need to stand a kilometer away to appreciate how far technology has come, without damaging your hearing. Look at it this way: you’ll be able to take a great panoramic shot for Instagram
Last among noisy man-made things, we have bombs. Unlike the last two items in this list, they are definitely not things you would want to witness.
Homemade bombs are loud enough to cause hearing damage for a few weeks after the incident. People have reported not being able to hear out of one ear, or experiencing an annoying, persistent ringing in both ears (tinnitus).
Atomic bombs are even louder. Their explosions can reach 280 dB! But it doesn’t really matter, because you’re close enough to hear it go off, either the radiation or intense vibrations would kill you instantly.
Moving on to some of Mother Nature’s loudest babies! Contrary to what many people may think, the blue whale is not the loudest animal on earth. That trophy goes to its cousin, the sperm whale. This creature can easily produce sounds of 230 dB, way louder than it’s more famous relative! However, since its calls and clicks are so short, the sperm whale is often overlooked in lists of loud animals because their “voices” can escape our weak human ears. No hearing damage to worry about here, thankfully.
General consensus is that this explosion that happened two centuries created the loudest sound in the history of our planet, as well as one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions. It was so incredibly, crazily loud that it shattered people’s eardrums from 40 miles away. The volcanic island was located in Indonesia, but the explosion could be heard as far away as Australia! Not even the most high tech noise-regulating hearing protection could save you from this monster explosion.
BONUS: ‘The Loudest Sound Ever Heard’
Supposedly named in honor of the Krakatoa eruption, this is an album by Christian rock band The Choir. What remains unclear, however, is what new sound they were referring to. Is it the voice of God coming down from the heavens? The choruses of angels? Their actual songs, meant to spread the good news of the Bible? It’s probably going to be a mystery forever. What’s important is that they continue to rock on responsibly, without damaging the hearing of their fans. Amen, my dudes.