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Debunking the Noise: Why Are Power Tools So Loud?

8 min read

What You Can Do About Loud Power Tools

Power Tool Noise Causes Ear Protection Method
Dangeously Loud Tool Wearing Ear Muffs
Sporadically Loud Tool Wearing Ear Plugs
Tool Using Colleague Keep Your Distance
Loose Parts Adjust Tool
Malfunctioning Tool Turn Off Tool

construction worker covering ears reacting to loud noise

Common Complaints

Noisy power tools can be a problem when you’re using them or working around them.

Thankfully, there are solutions.

Consider choosing power tools that have a lower decibel rating, where available.

Reducing the number of tools used, and focusing on the quieter features, can help keep noise to a minimum.

Additionally, mufflers and soundproofing materials can reduce some, if not all of the sound.

Ultimately, noise control is achievable with a little effort.

Explaining the Noise Problem

Power tools are loud because they are usually used for tasks that require high power or speed, such as cutting or drilling through tough materials.

Additionally, the motor in the power tool can vibrate in response to the force required to complete the task.

This results in noise that can reach over 100 dB, which is more than enough to cause hearing damage.

To protect your ears, it is important to wear hearing protection when using power tools.

Ear plugs, ear muffs, and other hearing protection devices can reduce the loud noise associated with power tools, helping to prevent hearing damage.

The Science of Sound and Power Tools

How Sound is Generated

Power tools are loud because of how sound is generated.

Mechanical processes like the rotation of a drill bit and the piston of a saw create vibrations that transfer to a tool’s housing.

The type of material used in the housing and the tool’s design, such as slots and air passages, can increase sound level.

Different materials can act as sound dampeners, which can help decrease sound level when used in the construction of a tool - if they are built with that in mind.

For instance, rubber can be used to limit amplitude of sound.

The number and size of vents and holes on a tool can also affect sound volume.

By making strategic choices (usually advertised by the tool) like limiting air flow, designers can help decrease the sound of power tools.

Measuring Loudness

Sound is measured in decibels, which is a unit for tracking and measuring the intensity of a sound.

Both natural and man-made sounds have different levels of loudness, and the decibel scale is a helpful way to quantify this.

For example, a whisper is roughly 30 dB, a normal conversation is around 60 dB, and a lawn mover is around 90 dB.

Even more powerful tools, such as chain saws or jackhammers, can reach up to 120 dB.

Saws and Cutters

Circular saws, hand saws, jigsaws, and other cutting tools create a lot of noise.

On average, circular saws and jigsaws are often rated at 90-95 dB.

Hand saws tend to be around 80-85 dB.

Miter saws and table saws can come even louder, ranging from 95-105 dB and more when not operated properly.

It’s important to follow safety guidelines when using these tools and to always wear proper hearing protection, since short-term exposure to 90 dB or more can lead to permanent hearing damage.

Drills and Drivers

Drills and drivers are some of the loudest power tools, reaching up to an ear-splitting 100 db.

Even the lightest cordless drills can reach up to 90 db when in use.

Drills produce a higher sound frequency than impact drivers, which makes them seem even louder.

The average impact driver creates sound levels up to 88 db.

Some power drills are even powerful and quick enough to create sound levels over 100 db.

However, some drills and drivers have lower sound levels, so it’s important to pay attention to the product spec sheets to determine the sound levels before buying.

Air Tools

Air tools are popular among professional contractors because of their lighter weight and higher power.

But they can also be noisy. Depending on the model and the air pressure, these pneumatic tools can reach very loud levels - sometimes up to 100 decibels!

To reduce the noise, you can invest in a noise-reducing muffler or a rubberized grip, or wear hearing protection.

The Factors Contributing to Noise

Motor Type

Power tools carry varying levels of noise depending on their motor type.

Brushed motors, for example, tend to be louder than brushless motors because they have commutators, which create a buzzing sound when they work.

Brushless motors don’t have commutators, which leads to less noise and better efficiency overall.

Impact drills also have higher noise levels than other power tools due to their powerful piston action, which generates a high-pitched sound when it works.

To reduce the noise levels of power tools, manufacturers often use specialized insulation, such as sound dampening material, on the motor and nearby parts.

Build Quality

Build quality impacts how loud power tools are.

Poorly built tools use weaker materials that don’t absorb vibration.

Plus, cheaper tools use components that don’t fit as snugly as better-constructed ones.

This can start to produce rattles or squeaks as the tool vibrates during operation.

In contrast, high-quality tools feature well-fitted components and dense materials that absorb vibration, resulting in a deep, low rumbling that’s not nearly as loud.

So, if you need to reduce the noise from your power tools, take a close look at their build quality, and consider that before buying.

Gear and Mechanism

Power tools are loud for many reasons, but one that might not be immediately apparent is the influence of gears and mechanical parts.

Many of them contain gears that fit together, and these pieces create their own unique noises that can be disruptive.

Likewise, the mechanical linkages that are used to move the parts can create additional loud, clanking sounds that you wouldn’t experience with other machines.

Gears and mechanical parts are the engine that drives these tools, but those same components can create unnecessary noise.

Health Implications

Hearing Damage

If you use power tools regularly, it is important to wear hearing protection such as foam ear plugs or special earphones designed to protect hearing.

The amount of time between loud noise exposure and the development of hearing damage can be as short as a few minutes.

Prolonged exposure to loud noise can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.

To prevent this, take frequent breaks when using power tools, wear earplugs, or try noise-canceling headphones for extra protection.

Stress and Fatigue

Noise can lead to serious physical and mental strain.

Research shows that noise can lead to higher levels of stress, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, and decreased performance.

Even short-term exposure to loud noise can lead to muscular tension in the neck and shoulder areas which can cause headaches, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue.

Constant loud noise can cause psychological problems like depression, anxiety, decreased quality of life, and cognitive dysfunction.

Power tools can increase these risks since they generate loud and sustained noise.

You can take action to prevent that - and you should.

Mitigating the Noise

Ear Protection Options

Ear protection options can help mitigate the noise of power tools.

Earmuffs are designed to cover your whole ear and keep out most of the noise.

Earplugs are inserted into the ear and provide a tighter seal against sound.

It’s important to make sure they fit properly, and some people may find them uncomfortable.

Noise-cancelling technology is also available for those looking for advanced protection.

These devices reduce the overall volume while still allowing you to hear important sounds.

Tool Features and Add-ons

Power tools aren’t always as loud as you might think.

Models of power tools today come with tons of features and add-ons that can help reduce the noise they make.

For starters, many power tools come with noise-reducing features that help lower decibel levels.

Additionally, some come with gloves and other add-ons that cut down on vibration, thus making them much quieter.

And there are always aftermarket accessories available for those that want to reduce the noise further.

It’s always important to assess the features and add-ons of a tool to make sure it’s as quiet as possible.

Soundproofing Your Workshop

Using soundproofing materials and products can help cut down on noise as it travels from your workshop.

A thick layer of soundproofing insulation is a great way to block sound from escaping into other parts of your home or garage.

You can even buy special wallboards and window panels specifically made for soundproofing.

Foam mats and rubber mats are also great for absorbing sound waves.

If you don’t want to invest in more permanent soundproofing solutions, consider using strategically placed rugs, curtains, and other textiles to muffle and absorb sound.


The Noise Problem & What You Can Do About It

Make sure to use hearing protection, like ear plugs or ear muffs, when operating power tools.

This will help protect your hearing and reduce the risk of hearing damage.

Also, make sure to always follow safety instructions and use the equipment the right way to reduce the risk of accidents.

Proper maintenance and care can go a long way in getting the most out of your tools while reducing noise.

Make sure to clean, lubricate and adjust all parts regularly, to not unnecessarily cause friction and sound.

It’s important to take your hearing health seriously, and to protect your ears from loud noise whenever possible. By taking these steps, you can.

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