I'm wondering how far is the hearing radius for elves, humans, dwarves, etc.?

For example, I'm a Wood Elf and I'm in a battle (assume the battle is loud). A wizard casts Darkness within 5 feet of me (thus, I am Blinded). Meanwhile, 55 feet from me, a person is hiding in a bush, but whose Stealth check hasn't beaten my Passive Perception. Can I hear him rustling through the bush, even though he is 55 feet away? It sounds impossible to hear him from that distance.

Is there a radius in which:

  • I can hear clearly (no Perception penalties)?

  • I can hear less clearly (with penalties)?

  • I can't hear at all?


(I don't actually know if it's okay to post this for copyright reasons or whatever so please take this down if that is an issue.)

I want to doubt that a DM Screen is anything like an authoritative source, but the D&D 5e Screen (found here courtesy of @Adam in the comments) does have suggestions for Audibility ranges:

Audible Distance

Trying to be quiet 2d6 x 5 feet

Normal noise level 2d6 x 10 feet

Very loud 2d6 x 50 feet

The way I read that is that for a given noise, it reaches out to the given distance in feet and after that, well I'm not quite sure. Either it refers to being able to understand a sound (for instance speech) or being able to hear it at all.

In your example, obviously the sounds of battle will be Very loud. Whether that imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks or a penalty to the character's Passive Perception score is debatable, and it can be negated with Advantage anyways. The most important question is whether a Stealth check that is under the Passive Perception score should count as trying to be quiet versus normal noise level.

Obviously by virtue of the Stealth check they are trying to be quiet but on the flip side they were not actually quiet enough. If that is sufficient to call it a Normal noise level then on average (average of 2d6 is 7) the normal hearing range is 70 feet, and there is a very, very good chance the sneak in the bushes will be heard by the blinded character.

Important: (I just noticed) This information is on a table under the heading "Encounter Distance" which may mean that these numbers are not as suitable for your scenario as they are for figuring out when creatures notice each other. Take that as you need to, but it is definitely a starting point.

  • \$\begingroup\$ From which DM screen do these values come from ? \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Apr 20 '17 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding understand or hear at all: If I'm not mistaken (not a native speaker) audible exclusively describes whether a sound can be sensed at all and does not imply whether a voice is intelligible. Regarding the rest: IMO this lacks some rule on superposing sounds. Intuitively it seems obvious that I can't hear a "quiet" sound that is 30ft away if there's cacophonous noise all around. It seems to me that this screen's suggestions assume an otherwise quiet environment. One could use these levels of noise and distance as basis though and add primitive homebrew rules for superposition. \$\endgroup\$ – TheNickOfTime Apr 20 '17 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yotus The D&D 5e DM Screen, the one with an adventuring party fighting what appears to be an ancient red dragon on a massive treasure hoard. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Apr 20 '17 at 14:15

There are no radius specified in the PHB, DMG or MM.

It's all based on the Wisdom (Perception) check, which will be more difficult when trying to spot anything further away. This means that the DC is up to the DM.

There are however special cases for which a hearing radius is cleary set (see the following examples).

The Pandemonium plane (DMG 62)

The Pandemonium plane is a a very noisy plane, limiting the distance at which characters can hear each other:

It also makes conversation possible only by yelling, and even then only to a maximum distance of 10 feet. Creatures have disadvantage on any ability check that relies on hearing.

As markovchain mentioned in a comment, this radius is limited to conversation and does not prevent anyone to hear anything beyond it.

Sentient magic items (DMG 214)

Some sentient magic items can hear (or see) in a given radius, using the following table:

  1. Hearing and normal vision out to 30 feet.
  2. Hearing and normal vision out to 60 feet.
  3. Hearing and normal vision out to 120 feet.
  4. Hearing and darkvision out to 120 feet.

The DMG also describes that these distances are a limited range, meaning that characters have possibly better senses than these items.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Worth mentioning that the quoted line from Pandemonium says, in full, "... and even then only to a maximum distance of 10 feet. Creatures have disadvantage on any ability check that relies on hearing " which implies your hearing range is still greater than 10ft. It's just conversation that's restricted. As presented, it looks like nobody can hear anything beyond 10ft in Pandemonium. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 20 '17 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I edited the answer to include this information, thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Yotus Apr 20 '17 at 12:23

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