Some landowners see the noise of a lawnmower as a distraction from the quiet of rural or suburban life. The engine of a gas-powered riding lawnmower can create noise levels of up to 90 decibels while push mowers often rank in the high 70s or low 80s when it comes to noise production. This is at or near the level where hearing protection is recommended, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
The noise level of normal conversation among individuals averages 60 decibels. The logarithmic formula used to calculate decibels doubles the sound intensity about every 10 decibels. A push lawnmower at 80 decibels is four times louder than normal conversation. A riding lawnmower at 90 decibels is eight times as loud. This is comparable to the noise level of a blender at a distance of 3 feet or a car passing at highway speed at 10 feet. It is below the 120-decibel rating that is considered the threshold of pain.
OSHA recommends hearing protection for individuals exposed to sound intensities between 85 and 90 decibels. This includes riding lawnmowers with push mowers just below this level. Ear plugs or ear muffs protect small hairs in the ear canal that become damaged by high levels of noise. Taking breaks from equipment noise also protects hearing. Maintaining the lawnmower with lubrication reduces exposure by preventing sharp noises.
Electric lawnmowers often have decibel ratings below the level of a normal conversation. Ratings as low as 56 decibels for cordless electric push lawnmowers are noted while a manual push reel mower earns a 55-decibel rating. These units are quiet enough not to require the operator to wear any hearing protection.
Other Lawn Tools
Riding lawnmowers aren't the worst offenders in a homeowner's tool shed when it comes to noise. Gas-powered string trimmers or chainsaws can reach 110 decibels. This is well above the level where hearing protection is recommended and just below the threshold of physical pain for the operator.