Seismic Airgun Testing Survey


seismic air gun testing, BOEM, bureau of ocean energy management, delaware, sussex county, kent county, new castle county
Say No To Seismic Air Gun Testing

As you may have heard there is proposed seismic air gun testing in our waters for offshore drilling in Delaware.  This testing will be twice the decibel level of a jet engine.  According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) … “These airguns generate air bubbles that expand and contract in the water column, and the resultant noise levels are generally in the 225-260 decibel range for airgun arrays “   The human ear drum can rupture at 150 decibels, which  can occur if you stand 25 meters from a jet engine at takeoff.  The loudest sound possible in air is 194 decibels, but in water that can be greatly amplified.  Below is a chart from Purdue University with possible results from being exposed to different decibel levels.  It has been proven that seismic testing not only disrupts fisheries but also is detrimental to marine life, especially mammals.    We put together a quick survey to see what people think of the idea of seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Below is a chart from Purdue University with possible results from being exposed to different decibel levels.

Jet take-off (at 25 meters) 150 Eardrum rupture
Aircraft carrier deck 140
Military jet aircraft take-off from aircraft carrier with afterburner at 50 ft (130 dB). 130
Thunderclap, chain saw.  Oxygen torch (121 dB).  120 Painful.  32 times as loud as 70 dB.  
Steel mill, auto horn at 1 meter.   Turbo-fan aircraft at takeoff power at 200 ft (118 dB).  Riveting machine (110 dB); live rock music (108 – 114 dB). 110  Average human pain threshold.  16 times as loud as 70 dB. 
Jet take-off (at 305 meters), use of outboard motor, power lawn mower, motorcycle, farm tractor, jackhammer, garbage truck.   Boeing 707 or DC-8 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (106 dB); jet flyover at 1000 feet (103 dB); Bell J-2A helicopter at 100 ft (100 dB). 100 8 times as loud as 70 dB.  Serious damage possible in 8 hr exposure
Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB); power mower (96 dB); motorcycle at 25 ft (90 dB).  Newspaper press (97 dB).


4 times as loud as 70 dB.  Likely damage 8 hr exp
Garbage disposal, dishwasher, average factory, freight train (at 15 meters).  Car wash at 20 ft (89 dB); propeller plane flyover at 1000 ft (88 dB); diesel truck 40 mph at 50 ft (84 dB); diesel train at 45 mph at 100 ft (83 dB).  Food blender (88 dB); milling machine (85 dB); garbage disposal (80 dB). 80 2 times as loud as 70 dB.  Possible damage in 8 h exposure.
Passenger car at 65 mph at 25 ft (77 dB); freeway at 50 ft from pavement edge 10 a.m. (76 dB).  Living room music (76 dB); radio or TV-audio, vacuum cleaner (70 dB). 70 Arbitrary base of comparison.  Upper 70s are annoyingly loud to some people.
Conversation in restaurant, office, background music, Air conditioning unit at 100 ft 60 Half as loud as 70 dB.  Fairly quiet
Quiet suburb, conversation at home.   Large electrical transformers at 100 ft 50 One-fourth as loud as 70 dB. 
Library, bird calls (44 dB); lowest limit of urban ambient sound 40 One-eighth as loud as 70 dB.  
Quiet rural area 30 One-sixteenth as loud as 70 dB.  Very Quiet
Whisper, rustling leaves 20
Breathing 10 Barely audible




Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, that help one to understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise
Weakest sound heard 0dB
Whisper Quiet Library at 6′ 30dB
Normal conversation at 3′ 60-65dB
Telephone dial tone 80dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
Train whistle at 500′, Truck Traffic 90dB
Jackhammer at 50′ 95dB
Subway train at 200′ 95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 – 95dB
Hand Drill 98dB
Power mower at 3′ 107dB
Snowmobile, Motorcycle 100dB
Power saw at 3′ 110dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert 115dB
Pain begins 125dB
Pneumatic riveter at 4′ 125dB
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage – Loudest recommended exposure WITHhearing protection 140dB
Jet engine at 100′ 140dB
12 Gauge Shotgun Blast 165dB
Death of hearing tissue 180dB
Loudest sound possible 194dB


OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB


NIOSH Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 85dBA
6 86dBA
4 88dBA
3 89dBA
2 90dBA
1.5 92dBA
1 94dBA
.5 97dBA
.25 or less 100dBA
0 112dBA


Perceptions of Increases in Decibel Level
Imperceptible Change 1dB
 Barely Perceptible Change 3dB
Clearly Noticeable Change 5dB
About Twice as Loud 10dB
About Four Times as Loud 20dB


Sound Levels of Music
Normal piano practice 60 -70dB
Fortissimo Singer, 3′ 70dB
Chamber music, small auditorium 75 – 85dB
Piano Fortissimo 84 – 103dB
Violin 82 – 92dB
Cello 85 -111dB
Oboe 95-112dB
Flute 92 -103dB
Piccolo 90 -106dB
Clarinet 85 – 114dB
French horn 90 – 106dB
Trombone 85 – 114dB
Tympani & bass drum 106dB
Walkman on 5/10 94dB
Symphonic music peak 120 – 137dB
Amplifier, rock, 4-6′ 120dB
Rock music peak 150dB


  • One-third of the total power of a 75-piece orchestra comes from the bass drum.
  • High frequency sounds of 2-4,000 Hz are the most damaging. The uppermost octave of the piccolo is 2,048-4,096 Hz.
  • Aging causes gradual hearing loss, mostly in the high frequencies.
  • Speech reception is not seriously impaired until there is about 30 dB loss; by that time severe damage may have occurred.
  • Hypertension and various psychological difficulties can be related to noise exposure.
  • The incidence of hearing loss in classical musicians has been estimated at 4-43%, in rock musicians 13-30%.
  • Recent NIOSH studies of sound levels from weapons fires have shown that they may range from a low of 144 dB SPL for small caliber weapons such as a 0.22 caliber rifle to as high as a 172 dB SPL for a 0.357 caliber revolver. Double ear protection is recommended for shooters, combining soft, insertable ear plugs and external ear muffs.

Statistics for the Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart were taken from a study by Marshall Chasin , M.Sc., Aud(C), FAAA, Centre for Human Performance & Health, Ontario, Canada. There were some conflicting readings and, in many cases, authors did not specify at what distance the readings were taken or what the musician was actually playing. In general, when there were several readings, the higher one was chosen.

Additional Resources

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)  -

American Tinnitus Association – Information and help for those with tinnitus

Hear Tomorrow – The Hearing Conservation Workshop

H.E.A.R. – Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers

American Tinnitus Association – for musicians and music lovers

Turn It to the Left – from the American Academy of Audiology

Listen to Your Buds – from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Binge Listening: Is exposure to leisure noise causing hearing loss in young Australians? [pdf] – report from Australian Hearing, National Acoustic Laboratories

Hearing Aids and Music: Interview with Marshall Chasin, AuD – from the American Academy of Audiology

Safe Listening Resources – from the National Hearing Conservation Association

OSHA Noise and Hearing Conservation





Do you feel that seismic testing is necessary in the Atlantic Ocean?

No = 274
Yes = 20
Related Articles
1 of 618
Blank = 2 
Knowing there is only a 8 month supply of crude oil off the Atlantic coast is it even worth drilling for?
No = 279
Yes = 14
Blank = 3
Do you feel seismic testing will alter or change the fishery?
No = 12
Yes = 282
Blank = 2
Would you rather see more sustainable energy ideas in the Atlantic Ocean looked at such as wind farms?
No = 36
Yes = 258
Blank = 2
On a scale of 1 to 10 how harmful do you think seismic testing is to marine life?
1 = 4
2 = 3
3 = 0
4 = 3
5 = 5
6 = 6
7 = 11
8 = 26
9 = 20
10 = 217

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