There’s the saying “if I’d known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” Given I’m just now asking myself the "how loud is too loud" question it may be too late. Then it occurred to me that I could use my sound pressure meter with analog display from Radio Shack to at least figure out the damage so far and limit future damage.
The test was simple, I just fired up the amp and the sound pressure meter and started playing at what I thought was a reasonable but rocking volume level. Oops; the meter was hitting a range between 110 and 120 decibels. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association anything over 80 decibels can lead to hearing damage. 120 db is in the "painful" range: jet plane take-off, amplified rock music at 4-6 ft., car stereo, band practice. 110 db is just in the "extremely loud" range; rock music, model airplane. Interesting...rock music is mentioned in both ranges. What did you say?
The moral of the story is that it is louder than you think. But, with some basic measurements you can calibrate your rock out levels so that if you live longer than you expect, you'll still be able to hear the music.