Health department wants to limit noise level of public events

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If you like your sports events boisterous and your rock concerts loud, loud, loud, here's a story for you. For the first time ever, Salt Lake County is about to set volume limits for indoor events.

Noise is almost everywhere in our environment. But James Bennett, with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department (SLVHD), says, "People want peace, quiet." So, SLVHD is proposing the first major rewrite of noise laws in 30 years.

"We've addressed it basically either with distance or with a maximum decibel level," Bennett says.

For public events indoors, the volume hitting people in the ears will be limited to 100 decibels.

"Studies are now showing that today's generation is losing their hearing faster than their parents or grandparents before," Bennett said. But folks in the rock and roll business say 100 decibels may be OK for, say, a James Taylor concert, but maybe not for Motley Crue.

Audio engineer Todd Hansen said, "Yeah, I think people want to hear a loud rock show. I know I do."

So what do those numbers mean, anyway? We tested it. A fire truck's siren's from 25 feet away registered 116 on a decibel meter.

Sound technician Royal Allred said, "Most I've seen is probably 130. That was inside. I think it was actually the Delta Center."

A top rock and roll audio man told us his hearing is fine, and he thinks the law is unenforceable. "I just think it leaves it open to interpretation where it's measured from," Hansen said.

"Nothing more than 100 decibels where the public is actually going to be seated in the venue," Bennett said.

The Utah Jazz won't be affected. Under NBA rules, they already limit public address announcements to 95 decibels. The crowd is often louder, but no one's trying to quiet the fans, just the loudspeakers.

Under the new rules, warnings are required and earplugs must be offered if the volume is above 95 decibels. The board of health will vote on the ordinance tomorrow.


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John Hollenhorst


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