Photo credit: Dr. Daniel Fink

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I am an inveterate DIYer, maintaining two houses and assisting in keeping two others in good repair, so I have a lot of tools and am always looking for better ones. My father taught me that any job is easier to do with the right tool, and sometimes impossible to do without the right tool. Even if I don’t need a new tool, I often check the tool aisle to see if there is something new that I might want to have in the garage or in my tool box.

Since becoming a noise activist in 2014, I am much more protective of my ears. I learned that the temporary discomfort I experienced when cutting one piece of wood with a circular saw, or even pounding in one nail, indicated that permanent auditory damage was taking place.

I started using hearing protection if I was using any tool louder than a screwdriver or a pair of pliers, a line that I have used in blog posts. Sometimes I use corded earplugs with a Noise Reduction Rating of 27, other times I use earmuff hearing protection.

I also learned that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health actually had a publication listing quiet power tools several years back, but the listing does not appear to be maintained and is not searchable. When I had to replace my quarter-sheet electric sander, it was impossible to find out which one was quieter.

What we really need is decibel ratings on the boxes containing the machines, as is required in Europe for power tools used outdoors. (Apparently these requirements don’t yet extend to all power tools.)

Anyway, I had to visit one of the big box DIY stores recently to get supplies to do a repair, and much to my surprise found one of the leading power tool manufacturers bragging about how quiet it’s new battery-powered air compressor was. The manufacturer claims a noise rating of only 68 dBA.* When I have had to hire a contractor to do bigger jobs that I can’t do on my own, I hate when they use air compressors. They are invariably noisy and it’s impossible to predict when the compressor will turn on to maintain the pressure in the tank.

I don’t use the air compressor technology myself because it’s another entire set of tools that I would have to buy but almost never would use, and I don’t have enough space in the garage. Also, the compressed air technology can be dangerous for a novice using a nail gun, for example. But I hope this advertisement for a new, quieter air compressor is a harbinger of better and quieter things to come.

* A weighted decibel (dB) ratings adjust sound measurements to reflect the frequencies heard in human speech. Occupational noise exposure limits are defined in dBA. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Permissible Exposure Level for noise at work is 90 dBA.

DISCLOSURE: The Quiet Coalition does not accept advertising and does not endorse products. I have several Milwaukee power tools but neither The Quiet Coalition nor I have any financial or other relationship with the manufacturer. This blog post is not an endorsement of this tool or any other Milwaukee product and is written for informational purposes only.

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