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How Do Noise and Vibration Affect You When Operating a Boat

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

How Do Noise and Vibration Affect You When Operating a Boat

Noise and vibration are inevitable byproducts of motorized vessels. As trivial as it may sound, they have quite lasting impacts on your body if exposed for a long time. So, how do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat?

While the noise can be distracting and slow down your reaction time, the vibration tends to cloud your judgment and reduce your ability to navigate your vessel properly. Together with motion sunlight, they are the culprit to some of the most fatal sunlight on water accidents.

In today’s article, we will discuss the reasons behind this problem and ways to prevent it from happening.

Boat Noise and Vibration Sources


Though noise and vibration on a boat result from various reasons, below are 3 of the most common causes.

  • Boat Engine – What sound does a boat make? Toot toot! Engines produce sound and vibration when being operated, even those designed for sound minimization still let out something.
  • Wind Noise – The wind can be significantly loud when you ride with an open helm, not to mention that its intensity will increase as you speed up, thus creating vibrations.
  • Water – Vibration is created due to the resistance between the water lapping and the hull when the boat is operating.

Effects of Noise and Vibration on Boating


Common effects of noise and vibration on boating include:

  • Insomnia – When exposed to noise and vibration for a significant amount of time, you’ll likely get insomnia, resulting in difficulty concentrating, mood swings, stress, and other long-term physical and mental fatigue.
  • Muscle tension – The noise and vibration combined can produce a synergistic interaction on muscle fatigue, with the effect of noise being more dominant.
  • Hearing impairment – Though very few studies have proven that hearing loss is caused by intense vibration, long-term exposure to high noise levels has proven to be a common cause of hearing impairment.

Besides the mentioned effects, you may also experience:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure levels
  • Nausea and sickness

What is the Ideal DB Level for Noise and Vibration?


The recommended dB level for boat operators is less than 90 decibels when the engine is on. Anything beyond that level can result in unwanted effects on your physical and mental health.

The USCG has announced a law requiring the noise limit for powerboats to be 86 dB, and can reach up to 90 dB depending on the state.

To be more specific, it shouldn’t produce anything more than 75 dB when docked, and when idled and measured 3 feet apart from the transoms, it shouldn’t be any more than 88 dB.

Nonetheless, some states may have different rules regarding this limit.

For example, in Alaska and Arkansas, it is 75 dB for machinery and up to 60 dB for cabins and medical facilities on vessels with a gross load of up to 10,000.

Tips For Reducing Noise And Vibration Exposure

  • Cut down your time at the helm. According to USCG, it is mandatory for one to limit his time at the helm to 4 hours, as exceeding that amount can result in fatigue and lowered concentration levels.
  • Find ways to soundproof your vessel. Absorption panels and door sealings are some of the most effective soundproofing materials to help with boat noise reduction.
  • Opt for noise-canceling headsets or earplugs to cancel out the ambient noise on board a vessel, thus limiting the influence of sound exposure.
  • Carry out regular engine maintenance to make sure everything is running smoothly over time.


How do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat? At the end of this article, some of you may be surprised at the effects caused by noise and vibration on a boat. With that said, it’s crucial to be well-prepared before you spend your time navigating at the helm for a more enjoyable boating experience.

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