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Noise from household items

Hi I have been wondering if there have been studies done relating to damaging noise from household vacuum cleaners. I was very conscious of an upright one operating on a hard surface when young children were present recently. Thanks

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Great point! I myself am unsure but I would guess that they would need to meet some level of sound emission that was a safe level in a household, though Industrial models could exceed that but then they should only be used in “Industrial” circumstances with appropriate protection available to be worn. Others in here I am sure will be able to better answer your question.

Also a Welcome to our Community, I hope you enjoy your interactions into the future here.

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Hearing loss from noise exposure is increased by noise level and exposure time, so minimising either will be beneficial. Lots of household items have potential to cause hearing loss (blenders, some tasks with coffee making, vacuums and floor cleaners etc) so if possible separate activities from people and animals or keep operating to a minimum.

If you look at the lastest Choice review of Vacuums sound pressure levels are quoted.
https://www.choice.com.au/compareall/home-and-living/laundry-and-cleaning/vacuum-cleaners/vacuums

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Thanks. I presumed they would have to meet certain levels but the increase in noise when used on a polished wooden floor when compared with the noise when being used on carpets was considerable. Thanks also for the welcome.

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Thanks. I will look at the link

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None of the quoted figures reaches 85 dB which is considered to be the start of the harmful levels. I would think that consistent long term exposure at 82 dB or near that level would create harm but I also don’t expect that many would use the vacuum all day long, if they did earplugs that reduce noise by about 15 dB would be useful and bring the noise levels down into very safe levels of exposure.

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Welcome, and what an interesting question. I can see you have some great feedback already.

A more general discussion would suggest that we do need to consider other effects when doing any task that has high noise levels.

One code of practice (excuse the industrial background) suggests that some individuals can incur noise related hearing injury at exposures lower than the set standard.

IE The general 85db(A) weighted over 8 hrs may be too high to prevent hearing damage to some of us. 75db (A) is one suggested alternate guideline for best practice. In the home, the expectation is that exposure to noisy appliances is only for short periods.

The drumming of a vacuum on a wooden floor or a power head may indeed add to the actual noise level. A similar effect to a violin or guitar string bing amplified through the instruments sound box.

The manufacturers of a vacuum have no control over the environment or how we use the item at home. Type testing for noise levels is typically done in a specially designed chamber. The item to be tested is mounted in a way that ensures it is decoupled acoustically from it’s environment.

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In relation to noise, there can be either the noise level or the frequency of the noise.

Quite often sounds which are a nuisance (I find that some of the bagless vacuum cleaners have a high pitch noise which I personally find irritating) often sound louder as they are at frequencies which stimulate a response…but are often well below noise levels which would cause any long short term or long term harm.

Other sounds may not be a nuisance, but at at levels which can cause annoyance and potentially short or long term harm.

While the noise may be more noticeable when on timber, it could be because the frequency has changed making it more noticable or more of a nuisance. If you have a smart phone, there are free apps which can give an general indication of noise levels and one can compare different operating conditions to see if there is a corresponding change in noise levels. If the noise levels are similar, the differences will be in the frequency and human resoonses to these frequencies.

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Thanks everyone for all this information, my conclusion is that it is best to keep little children away from all noises that are loud when that is possible.

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This thread has brought attention to an important topic, in my opinion one that has been neglected in most product reviews. As an old sound engineer I am particularly conscious of the impact noise has upon our hearing.

Generally the decibel figures quoted on a product are measured at a distance of one meter in an acoustically dead environment. So the levels are higher when actually working with a product such as a blender or food processor. Also take into consideration the fact that most modern kitchens have hard surfaces and dreadful acoustics which tend to amplify the impact on our hearing. Really, protection should be worn.

I recently returned a Kitchen Aid mini chopper to the store because it was unbearably loud. Thinking it was faulty I asked for a replacement, which was agreed to by the manufacturer’s Australian rep. Guess what, no difference. And we have other domestic products that in my opinion emit far too much noise.

Maybe we could start a campaign to get manufacturers to pay much more attention to the noise levels of their products.

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Thanks John, I feel that some people invest in expensive, popular brands believing in doing so they have acquired the best and safest products.

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It is also worth noting that many more of us are living closer in appartments or small urban (mini or micro, as I call them) blocks.

We don’t all follow the same daily routines. Nothing like going to bed early because you have a 5:30am flight the next day. Only to have the neighbour fire up the million rpm juicer that turns timber into molecules for better digestion. Ready for their early start on the commute at 6am.

There are also those who put this off as they prefer fresh after their 5am Gym session on Sunday’s. Not that anyone else deserves to sleep in on Sundays?

I wonder what might be a suitable guide for acceptable noise levels from kitchen or internally used household appliances? It would need to be based an experiment or trial of perceived community disturbance.

For the majority of consumers, are the levels readily achievable, as evidenced by some examples in a product range not being objectionable loud?

Is the limit quantifiable. Loud speech, TV in a typical room. Home theatre and sound systems banned unless in sound proof containment! :rofl: Oops, step too far!

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Hello again,
I wonder if part of the answer might be that we continue to raise the awareness of permanent hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud sounds and encourage everyone to take some responsibility for their own health eg learning of dangerous noise levels, not undertaking certain activities when small children are present, wearing ear plugs/ earmuffs etc.
I now know there are free phone apps that measure sound. Presumably some are more accurate than others but it seems to be a good start.
Thanks everyone for your responses.

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As much as I’m an advocate for reducing commercial and domestic noise levels, it is important to realise that the human ear is amazingly resilient. In my experience the only people effected by externally induced serious hearing loss are those directly exposed to prolonged high noise levels, such as rock musicians and their crews, or construction workers without ear protection.

I suffer from mild hearing loss, but it has been brought on by my age (70) and not from the years of exposure to loud noise. And there is little evidence to suggest that this is a modern affliction since hearing aids such as ear trumpets go back to well before the industrial revolution.

If sound is uncomfortably loud then it is natural to do something about it, or leave the area. It is also a natural reflex in children. So I would be hesitant to recommend conscious over-protection of the little darlings.

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Medical science appears to have a different view on that. There are any different causes of hearing loss. Most damage to hearing is permanent. There is no cure, irrespective of age. Short bursts of high intensity sound can be just as damaging as prolonged exposure. Youthful ears are just as vulnerable as older ears. Ongoing damage to older ears may be a little less noticeable due to prior damage making the changes less evident to the patient.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20373072

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Taking responsibility for your own safety/protection is always important. Manufacturers do however have a duty of care to make products that are safe for their use circumstances. If a device is meant to be used by an ordinary consumer then it should clearly identify any risks and what precautions that should be taken to help the user and those around them to stay safe. It is then up to the user to follow that advice.

The Law in many regards lists and requires what standards of product safety need to be met by manufacturers including things like size of parts used in items for small children, materials used, warning labels, noise levels, and providing clear instructions for use.

Phone apps may help if you have a smartphone, know that app is accurate enough, know how to use the app, actually use the app, know what levels of sound are safe and which aren’t. Not everyone does, so I think that some level of responsibility needs to be taken by the suppliers/manufacturers of items to provide relatively safe products for the home. CHOICE testing of products that provides these answers is a good place to start to help consumers select the right products. Also CHOICE provides, very often, free guides about how to purchase products and what to look for when choosing which one/s are right for you. The more people who take advantage of these articles the more will benefit in making good choices (no pun intended).

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This is a very good topic. My newly acquired espresso machines, the Sunbeam MiniBarista certainly emits a deafening noise when the steam wand is activated for frothing milk. It is so bad that I have to wear earplugs when doing it. The CHOICE test results does not mention noise level. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to include this information?

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I’m totally in agreement with the science. However the sound levels referred to are far in excess of those experienced in a domestic environment.

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