Even at their most obnoxious, noisy garage door openers are not going to pose a threat to your hearing unless you listen to them nonstop for a long period of time. However, they may pose a threat to your enjoyment of a great bit of dialogue in your favorite movie, or to regular sleep patterns if your bedroom is above the garage.
The culprit is not necessarily the garage door opener itself, though it is usually a contributor. The potential for noise comes from the metal-on-metal contacts throughout the garage door opener system and all of those moving parts.
As mentioned, the sound levels are not likely damaging. We found only one specific measurement of a garage door opener's noise level 85 decibels, according to a Washington State University study and that was only for one specific opener. We know the sound level varies from opener to opener. If they average 85 decibels, that is about as loud as the sound of busy city traffic. That level becomes dangerous only if you listen to it for more than eight hours straight, according to Dangerous Decibels, a joint project of the Oregon Hearing Research Center at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Portland State University (Department of Health Communications), and University of Northern Colorado.
Regularly tightening everything is the simplest and cheapest way to cut back on the noise of garage door openers. After a while bolts can shake loose. When they get loose they tend to generate a lot of racket. Keep everything tight and you will likely experience less noise.
Another thing that can help is lubrication. Anything will be better than nothing, but one great suggestion we found was to use some of the lubricants used by the folks in bike repair shops. This makes sense for garage door openers with chains especially, since they can be quite similar to bike chains. Look for a lubricant that is designed not to attract dust.
One way to avoid noisy garage door openers in the first place is to do your homework and find one that is not likely to be loud. Belt-based systems have the reputation for being the quietest. Another factor that is less obvious is the rail design. Some garage door opener systems are designed with a one-piece rail system, which will likely make less noise than garage door openers that require multiple components to create each rail.
Another suggestion we saw frequently in our research was creating a barrier between garage door openers and the wall, especially when there is a metal-on-metal connection point. There are commercial products sold as garage door opener silencer kits or something similar that can help you do that. However, the simplest version of a silencing kit included placing a piece of rubber between the mounting bracket and the wall. The rubber can be any type. In the case of one "This Old House" video it was just a piece of a rubber mud guard found on the side of the road. This should work just as well to cut down on the garage door opener clatter.
The latest and greatest garage door openers are designed to be very quiet, but they re not perfect. Older garage door openers are almost always too loud for comfort. If your old garage door opener is in its final days, we'll help you find a new opener that will work quieter and quicker than your current one.