Chainsaws are powerful tools that can help fell trees, cut lumber, and clear brush. But they also make a lot of noise in the process. Understanding the sounds a chainsaw makes, and the potential risks from noise exposure, is important for anyone operating a chainsaw. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the sounds of different chainsaw types, noise levels and hearing risks, and ways to protect your hearing when using a chainsaw.
I feel the loud roar of a chainsaw engine is impossible to ignore. The high-pitched whine and snarling grind of a chainsaw cutting into wood is unlike any other sound. Some describe it like a screaming metallic beast, while others compare it to the ear-splitting noise of a helicopter taking off. The exact sound a chainsaw makes can vary based on the model, but one thing is certain – chainsaws are loud.
What sound does a chainsaw make?
The signature sound of a chainsaw is produced by several components working together at high speeds. The basic function involves an engine spinning a chain around a bar at speeds over 60 mph. This high-velocity metal-on-metal contact creates a loud, continuous grinding and gnashing noise. The engine itself, often two-stroke gas engines on full-sized models, also generates a piercing high-pitched revving. Other mechanical noises like the clutch, chain brake, and vibrations of the body add to the overall chainsaw din.
While headphone-wearing tree surgeons may hear soothing music, for the rest of us within earshot, the real soundtrack of a chainsaw is cacophonous mechanical roar. Some creatively describe it as a swarm of giant bees or the shriek of a terrified robot. The Japanese even have an onomatopoeia, “buīn,” to phonetically capture the sound. Love it or hate it, there’s no doubt the squeal of a chainsaw cutting into wood is extremely loud and distinctive.
Chainsaw noise levels
The decibel levels produced by a chainsaw can reach dangerous levels for hearing. Gas-powered chainsaws often generate noise ranging from 106-116 decibels. This is comparable to a rock concert or motorcycle. In fact, 106 decibels is 16 times louder than normal conversational speech at 60-70 dB. Even brief exposure to sounds over 100 dB can permanently damage hearing over time.
Human ears cannot withstand the shattering sound of a chainsaw for more than a few seconds before risking acute injury. Experts say continuous exposure to sounds over 110 dB for just 30 seconds can inflict permanent hearing damage. This highlights the severe hazards chainsaw noise poses not just to operators, but bystanders in the vicinity. Protecting your ears is crucial when operating or working around these deafening power tools.
Types of chainsaws and their noise levels
Different types of chainsaws have varying noise profiles. Here is a breakdown of the relative loudness:
The most powerful and rugged chainsaw models run on gas engines. They generate the highest noise levels, which can exceed 110 dB in some cases. This extreme sound output comes from the high-revving 2-stroke engine and speeds over 10,000 rpm. Professionals using gas-powered chainsaws day in and day out face major risk of progressive hearing reduction over time.
Electric chainsaws provide a slightly quieter alternative to deafening gas models, with noise levels typically peaking around 100 dB. The electric motor generates less noise than a gas engine in most cases. However, electric models are less powerful and not recommended for heavy duty use. Noise levels can still potentially damage hearing with prolonged exposure.
Cordless battery-powered chainsaws are the quietest type, producing noise in the 90-95 dB range. They allow more mobility than corded electric models without the extreme noise of gas chainsaws. The compact size and lower chain speeds generate less grinding and engine noise. For occasional light-duty use, battery chainsaws reduce exposure to potentially harmful noise. But hearing protection is still advisable, especially if sensitivities exist.
How to reduce chainsaw noise
While all chainsaws create hazardous noise, there are ways to decrease sound levels:
Keeping your chainsaw well-maintained can reduce excess noise from loose or damaged parts. Regularly inspecting and replacing the air filter, adjusting the carburetor, and checking the muffler and exhaust system can help minimize noise. A properly sharpened chain also runs smoother and quieter.
Using a quieter chainsaw
Opting for a low-noise electric or battery powered model produces less damaging sound when used for lighter tasks. Newer chainsaw models may incorporate design features like improved mufflers that lower noise. If buying a new chainsaw, compare sound ratings to choose a quieter option.
Sound barriers and enclosures
Creating physical barriers around the chainsaw operation or enclosing the saw in sound-dampening housing can reduce noise exposure. This might not affect the chainsaw’s sound, but prevents it from reaching the operator’s ears. Portable sound boxes are available that surround the saw while allowing airflow.
Hearing protection when using a chainsaw
Given the extreme noise hazards, wearing proper hearing protection is a must when operating a chainsaw for any duration.
Types of hearing protection
- Earplugs made of foam, silicone, or waxed cotton provide an inexpensive option inserted directly into the ear canal to block sound waves. They effectively lower noise 15-30 dB.
- Earmuffs enclose the entire ear in sound-attenuating cups and cushioning materials. High-quality earmuffs can reduce 30+ dB of noise. Over-ear and behind-neck styles are available.
- Electronic earmuffs combine sound reduction with built-in microphones and speakers to amplify ambient sounds and conversations while excluding loud chainsaw noise. This improves communication and awareness compared to passive plugs/muffs.
When to use hearing protection
Hearing protection should be worn consistently when operating a chainsaw or working nearby. Even short-term exposure can gradually damage hearing over time. It only takes a few loud sessions before permanent tinnitus and muffled hearing may result. Using protection whenever a chainsaw is running prevents accelerated hearing loss.
Proper use of hearing protection
To work optimally, hearing protection must completely seal the ear canal or fully surround the ears. Improper fit allows loud noise to bypass the protections. Follow instructions for proper insertion/positioning and routinely check that earplugs or muffs stay securely in place when moving your head. Combining plugs with muffs provides maximum sound reduction. Limit chainsaw use duration and take regular breaks to minimize cumulative exposure.
Chainsaw noise regulations and guidelines
Given the hazardous noise levels, chainsaw operation may fall under occupational safety regulations or local ordinances.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines
For professional use, OSHA mandates hearing protection when worker noise exposure equals or exceeds 85 dB over an 8 hour period. Given most chainsaws far exceed this limit, employers must make protective gear available and ensure workers use it appropriately.
Many localities have noise limits that may restrict certain chainsaw uses, especially residential areas. Always check for any municipal ordinances on allowable power tool sound levels and hours of operation. Complying with local chainsaw noise rules is important for being a considerate community member and avoiding potential fines.
The shrill scream of a chainsaw cutting wood can easily exceed safe noise limits for hearing. But understanding the risks, choosing lower noise models when possible, utilizing sound dampening techniques, and properly protecting your ears can help prevent permanent damage from this power tool’s noisy reputation. Always follow local regulations and safety guidelines when engaging a roaring chainsaw. Your hearing health over a lifetime is worth protecting.
What is the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound a chainsaw makes?
The Japanese language has a unique onomatopoeic word to phonetically recreate the sound of a chainsaw: “buīn.” This captures the high-pitched mechanical whirring and droning roar.
How can I reduce the noise of my chainsaw?
To make a chainsaw quieter, maintain it properly, upgrade to a low-noise electric/battery model for lighter tasks, operate it with sound dampening attachments, and use hearing protection. Also avoid prolonged use whenever possible.
What are the risks of not using hearing protection when operating a chainsaw?
Running a chainsaw without proper ear protection can lead to permanent hearing damage and loss over time. Prolonged exposure to sound levels over 100 dB increases risks of tinnitus, muffled hearing, and deafness. Always wear plugs/muffs to protect from chainsaw noise hazards.
Are electric chainsaws quieter than gas-powered chainsaws?
Yes, electric chainsaws typically generate less noise in the range of 90-100 dB compared to the 110+ dB range of louder gas models. However, ear protection should still be worn with any chainsaw use.
How loud is a chainsaw compared to normal speech?
While normal speech is 60-70 dB, a gas chainsaw can be 106 dB or higher. This is over 15 times louder than conversational levels. Even brief exposure without protection can damage hearing.
What are some examples of hearing protection for chainsaw use?
Recommended hearing protection includes form-fitting earplugs, earmuffs or headsets that fully enclose the ears, and electronic muffs that combine protection with situational sound amplification.
Are there any regulations on chainsaw noise levels?
OSHA requires protection for workers exposed over 85 dB. Local ordinances may also restrict chainsaw sound levels and hours of operation, so always check municipal noise codes where operating.
Michael Boyle is the founder and main author of Chainsaws Finder, boasting over 20 years of experience in the chainsaw industry. Hailing from Texas, Michael combines his extensive knowledge and hands-on expertise to provide reliable advice and top-notch service. His vision is to empower chainsaw users to tackle any project with confidence, making Chainsaws Finder a trusted resource in the field.