The Cookie Bite Experiment: Hand dryers – How Loud is Loud?

Vent Axia Tempest

Experimental Equipment

1 hearing aid user equipped with a pair of NHS Oticon Spirit Zests switched to Mute

1 Health and Safety officer with official calibrated sound level meter

1 Vent Axia Tempest high speed dryer, advertised sound level 74 dB(A)

1 rectangular disabled toilet approx 15 cubic m, with bare concrete floor and ceiling, and floor to ceiling ceramic tiles on walls.


For the sake of propriety, the Health and Safety officer decided it would be prudent to keep the toilet door open during the experiment; it was important that no-one could possibly get the wrong idea when we both emerged from the toilet looking windswept and flushed from 900 Watts of Vent Axia drying power in an enclosed space.

Experimental method

With the toilet door firmly wedged open by the Health and Safety officer’s carefully positioned left foot, I skipped the first stage of my usual toilet procedure, and proceeded straight to washing my hands. When I had finished, the sound level meter was held next to my right ear and drying was commenced. I used my usual frenetic hand rubbing technique under the dryer, but left out the bit at the end where I usually clasp my wet hands in the airstream to make a novelty farting noise. I didn’t wish to undermine the gravitas of the experiment.


When operated in situ, it would seem that the Vent Axia Tempest is a little more tempestuous than its advertised 74 dB(A) output implies. In the corner of the disabled toilet at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour, the sound level measured next to my ears as I rubbed my hands under the dryer came in at a whopping 95 dB, which surprised even me. If I use a power tool in the workshop, I’m required to wear ear protection at sound levels over 80 dB.

The difference, though, is in the length of exposure. The drying time for the Tempest is 10-15 seconds, so at most I’ll only be getting a couple of minutes of ear rattling exposure a day, less if I stop drinking so much tea. From a Health and Safety perspective, no ear protection is necessary at that level, but I don’t think I particularly want to take the risk if I can avoid it.  My portion of good hearing round about 4 KHz is the bit currently holding the cookie bite speech clarity show together, and is the bit which is most vulnerable to noise damage. Dr John Drever’s hand dryer study has demonstrated alarming noise levels in the high frequencies, and that tallies with my subjective experience of ear rattling discomfort. The problem is, I don’t want to have to remove my hearing aids and put in earplugs every time I go to the toilet.

The solution? Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve now got my own secret supply of Health and Safety endorsed paper towels…


paper towels

4 Responses to “The Cookie Bite Experiment: Hand dryers – How Loud is Loud?”

  1. 1 concheet August 16, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    I read your blog with interest and have many of the same problems. I have some older Opticons as well. I am under the impression that there are already some type of hearing aid that we can program ourselves, plus there are others that have an on-off button so you don’t have to pop them out each time when confronted with sudden loud noises.

    • 2 moiradancer August 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Hi Concheet, yes it is possible to programme your own aids currently, if you have ones which were bought privately. For anyone who might be interested, this useful series of articles on The Limping Chicken explains how do go about it, although it does warn you to tread cautiously:

      For anyone who fancies doing a bit of Open Source tinkering with no danger of knackering their expensive hearing instruments, this BioAid App which turns your smartphone/ tablet into a hearing aid, is the very thing:

      I’ve got NHS aids, plus I’m not technically minded enough for programming stuff, so I’m waiting for the day somebody designs an interface with bomb-proof settings for dummies 😉 Think I might be waiting a long time!

  2. 3 Catrena September 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Hello. I need to find more info on this and if anyone has sued. I am a victim of one of these hand dryers. I used one yesterday and it hurt. then as the day went one the ringing in my ears became almost intolerable. and then hearing loss. today the ringing not as loud but the hearing is not getting better. please help

    • 4 moiradancer September 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Catrena, sorry to hear that you have suffered a loss of hearing. If this has happened suddenly in the absence of a cold, allergies, etc, you should see a doctor as soon as you can to find out what’s happening in your ears. It may or may not turn out to be related to the hand dryer, and depending on what’s caused the loss, they may be able to offer treatment which can improve your hearing if you are seen by a doctor as soon as possible after the loss has occurred.

      Hopefully your hearing will return, but don’t delay in seeking proper ENT advice.

      Good luck and hope you see an improvement soon.

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