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Guide to measuring sound levels in dB

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E2S Warning Signals has published an educational guide that seeks to ‘de-mystify’ the dB (decibel), one of the most common units in engineering, yet also one of the most confusing. The guide can be found at

The main difficulty in comprehending dB measurements is that it is a log-linear scale, which, while it is very useful in representing very large differences in a more user-friendly scale, also compresses the scale.

Sound is defined as any pressure variation that can be heard by the human ear. The Threshold of Hearing is defined as 0 dB; the threshold of pain is around 130 dB, a scale that can be readily understood. However, as the power difference between the two levels is 1013 : 1, or, to spell it out in full, 10,000,000,000,000 or ten million million to one, expressing it in these terms suddenly gives a much better idea of the change.

E2S Warning Signals

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