Noise exposure affects your hearing and, according to the University of Texas Institute for Health Policy, possibly your overall health. Heart disease, hypertension, sleep disturbances and high stress are just some conditions attributable to excessive noise. The State of Texas recognizes that excessive noise is harmful, giving its municipalities the freedom to enact laws with varying degrees of strictness. For example, a conviction under Houston's noise ordinances could land you a fine of up to $1,000. In Dallas, you could receive a $2,000 fine and in Austin, you may have to pay $500, or $2,000 if the offense is a violation of public health laws.
In Austin, it is unlawful to play a musical instrument, stereo or other device that could disrupt the peaceful sleep of your neighbors between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. You must apply for a permit if you wish to perform construction work involving the loading, unloading or grading of sand, rock or gravel within 600 feet of a residence, church, hotel or hospital between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Austin law also forbids using vehicle sound equipment that vibrates and is audible over 30 feet away from your car or truck.
Dallas prohibits blowing the horn of a car, truck, bus or any other vehicle unless it's to signal a warning. Sound trucks used for advertising or selling are also prohibited in Dallas. You may not operate a loudspeaker or amplifier, except between 8:00 a.m. and sunset or within 150 feet of the property line of any residence. Furthermore, you are also violating Dallas law if you use a sound amplifier within 150 feet of any hospital, school currently in session, nursing home or outpatient surgical facility.
El Paso's noise standards are strict and include a noise zone chart. Zones are set up according to what activities take place in the area. For example, all residential structures are in Zone I, having a noise limit of 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. This number increases to 55 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. El Paso allows entities in Zone II, commercial properties, to generate more noise because the activities of business and manufacturing require it, depending on the industry. For this reason, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., El Paso's noise ordinance allows non-manufacturing businesses a limit of 60 decibels, and during the evening hours, only noise levels of 55 or less are permitted. For manufacturing, or Zone 3, establishments, the limit is 65 decibels in the evening hours, whereas during the day it's 70.
The City of Houston has strict decibel specifications that you must follow if you're a resident or just visiting. Any sound you make must be at or below 65 decibels during the day and 58 at night. If you are a business or nonresidential entity, your decibel limit stands at 68, night or day. Houston's noise ordinance defines daytime hours as 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. However, you may operate heavy machinery if you're a landscaper, but only between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and the noise must be under 85 decibels.
Ordinances prohibiting loud noises in Texas range from restrictions on overnight noise in Dallas and Austin to strict decibel restrictions in El Paso and Houston, where 65 decibels is the maximum volume allowed an individual in the daytime.
- Noise Pollution Clearinghouse: Code of Ordinances, City of Houston, Texas, Codified Through Ord. No. 97-1394, Adopted November 5, 1997, Chapter 30
- Noise Pollution Clearinghouse: Austin, Texas, Chapter 10-5: Noise
- University of Texas School of Public Health: Noise - A Public Health Issue
- Noise Pollution Clearinghouse: El Paso, Texas, Chapter 9.40, Noise
- Noise Pollution Clearing House: The Dallas City Code, Chapter 30, Noise
Angus Koolbreeze has been a freelance writer since 2007. He has been published in a variety of venues, including "He Reigns Magazine" and online publications. Koolbreeze has a Master of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.