If you’ve done any research into sleep apnea and snoring, you’ve probably learned that loud snoring is considered a risk factor for sleep apnea.
But how loud is loud snoring? When should you be concerned about it? The truth might surprise you. It’s probably not as loud as you think, and your snoring probably qualifies.
When measuring the volume of sounds, we normally use a measurement called “decibels.” Abbreviated dB, this scale attempts to measure the entire range of human hearing, which is an incredibly wide range. To accomplish this, the decibel scale is actually logarithmic. This means that when you move up 10 on the decibel scale, sound is actually becoming ten times louder.
A sound that is barely audible to a person with perfect hearing is a 0 on the decibel scale. A 90 on the scale–the level at which ear protection is required by OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration)– is actually a billion times louder than that barely audible sound.
So how high on this scale is “loud” snoring?
The Loudest Snoring
How loud is the loudest snoring? There are anecdotal reports of snoring up to 120 dB, as loud as a thunderclap (but more sustained). However, that is not well-documented. A better level to consider as the loudest snoring is 111.6, which is louder than a jackhammer.
This level of snoring would definitely indicate a serious risk for sleep apnea (not to mention ear damage), but it’s not necessary to snore this loud to be at risk for sleep apnea.
Loud Snoring Indicates Danger
In one study, researchers were able to correlate the volume of snoring with a person’s sleep apnea risk. In this study, people with the quietest snoring, about 46 dB, less than the ambient noise of a quiet office, didn’t have sleep apnea. On the other hand, those with the loudest snoring, around 60 dB, about the sound of loud talking or laughter as well as the normal for most alarm clocks, had severe sleep apnea.
In other words, if you snore about as loud as you talk, you likely have sleep apnea. These days, you can often measure the volume of your snoring using a smartphone app.
It’s also important to note that women are less likely to admit snoring, even if they snore about as loudly as men.
But you don’t need to measure the volume of snoring to know if it’s a problem. If people around you are noticing you snore, then it’s loud enough to get treated–and you should get tested for sleep apnea at the same time.
Snoring Is Not the Only Risk Factor
While most people with obstructive sleep apnea snore, not all do. So while snoring is a good indicator that you’re at risk, it’s not the only reason to get tested for sleep apnea. If you are experiencing daytime sleepiness or other sleep apnea symptoms, you should be tested.