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Which Is Louder, the Sperm Whale or the Blue Whale?

Updated May 16, 2024
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We are surrounded by noise. Everywhere we go, there is something or someone causing it. Animals can be particularly noisy, but have you ever wondered what the loudest animal in the world is? The answer is up for debate due to the subjective nature of how we perceive loudness. Is loudness measured by decibels or by the impact that sound has? Either way, the title of the world's loudest animal has been narrowed down to two massive cetaceans: the sperm whale and the blue whale.

The call of a sperm whale registers at 230 dB, while a blue whale's call measures 188 dB. However, the sperm whale's call is of vastly shorter duration. The BBC reports that a sperm whale’s call lasts approximately 100 microseconds, whereas a blue whale can make noise for up to 30 seconds.

The call of a sperm whale is so loud that it could even be fatal to humans. According to author and ocean-lover James Nestor, “These clicks are so powerful in the water that they can blow out your eardrums easily, and they can actually vibrate a human body to death.” A person’s eardrums can burst at around 150 decibels, while sounds in the 180-200 decibel range are capable of causing fatalities. Sound travels differently in water than through air, which makes the sperm whale’s call even more amplified than it would be on land.

Keep the noise down!

  • At 70 decibels, a person may become annoyed by a sound. At 140 decibels, pain will result.

  • The average dog bark registers between 80-90 dB. A chorus of dog barks can reach up to 115 dB, which falls just below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold of noise that can cause harm to the human ear at 120 dB.

  • According to the CDC, normal conversation among people registers at around 60 dB. The loudest human yell ever recorded was made by Jill Drake, a classroom assistant in the UK, at 129 dB.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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