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We all know that humans can tolerate lower frequencies at high volumes better than higher frequencies. In fact, for particularly low frequencies, high SPL is needed just for it to be audible.

What’s the difference between low and high frequencies for the ear?

If the decibels are equal, does low frequency sound cause the same amount of total hearing damage as other frequencies? If not, how much less damage does it cause? What is the maximum safe threshold for lower frequencies?

By low frequency, I am referring to the range of 16-100Hz, which is the range of most commercial subwoofers.

I am aware of people with 150db+ car audio systems, who are not deaf or hearing impaired. With regular sound, this would be as loud as a gunshot and constant exposure will surely cause significant damage. Many people in those communities seem to think bass is safe at loud volumes. However, I have not found any research to support or counter this argument.

Clearly, low frequency sound affects hearing differently than high frequency sound.


This is different from https://health.stackexchange.com/questions/10132 because I am specifically asking the difference in hearing damage of frequencies. I am aware that high frequency damages high frequency hearing and so on, but surely, it will also damage other frequencies of hearing and the rate of damage is different. It also does not account other types of hearing damage such as tinnitus. The answer to the other question does not contain scientific sources either.

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    Possible duplicate of Which deteriorates hearing faster; treble or bass? – nelomad Oct 2 '17 at 20:50
  • To put this VERY short -- I don't have time to reference this but my understanding is as you lose hair cells, you lose the ability to hear higher frequencies. The damage is caused by simply high dB noise, what pitch of sound is lost is not directly related to the type of sound your exposed to (i.e low freq over exposure does not cause low freq sensitivity to decrease). It's more of a general damage to the entire organ with the higher freq's being lost first. There are GREAT youtube videos on this BTW! – Mike-DHSc Oct 3 '17 at 15:12
  • For this to be answerable, especially if you want scientific sources, you need to define damage. – StrongBad Oct 3 '17 at 16:43
  • @Mike-DHSc I think your understanding is incorrect. A high level sound with a narrow bandwidth will cause a narrow hearing loss. It won't perfectly match the frequency of the sound since as I explain in my other answer sounds spreads out a little in the cochlea. – StrongBad Oct 3 '17 at 16:46
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    @Narusan-in-coma the OP says it is not a dupe and seems receptive to trying to improve the question. I think it is nicer to work with a new user to make the question work than cast a quick VTC, try to convince the user that we are not mean and that they should but the effort into improving the question, and then get enough support to reopen the question. – StrongBad Oct 3 '17 at 17:49

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