Summer and your hearing

Yesterday, I quickly googled a listing of upcoming festivals in and around Vancouver. For the month of July alone, a total of 43 events were listed. Whether it’s the International Jazz Festival, the Gastown Grand Prix or the Honda Celebration of Light, there is definitely something for everyone! Despite the eclectic mix of festivities, they all have something in common – noise. Most of the festivals involve some sort of music, and most definitely ambient noise.  If you have read some of our previous blogs, you will know that exposure to loud sounds, of any kind, can lead to a temporary threshold shift which in turn can lead to permanent hearing loss. 

One festival in particular, a favourite of mine, is the Celebration of Light. This is the spectacular display of fireworks over English Bay which begins at the end of July every year.  It is also one of the festivals which we need to be cautious of in regards to potential for damaging levels of sound. 

How loud are fireworks?

Depending on their construction, fireworks often exceed 150 decibels, and those that reach 175 decibels are not unheard of. However, this is the peak volume at the point of explosion. Commercial fireworks, which reach high into the sky before exploding, transmit a much weaker sound to viewers on the ground. Consumer fireworks, which explode very close to ground level, typically have a lower maximum decibel level but can actually sound louder.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults be exposed to no more than 140 decibels, which can be achieved by repositioning yourself away from the noise source. Children should not be exposed to no more than 120 decibels, and it is best to keep infants away altogether.  The length of exposure also matters. In general, you should expose yourself to 85 decibels for no more than 8 hours, and for every three decibels above this the time you should spend in noise is reduced (more on this here). 

Wearing hearing protection is one sure fire way of reducing your noise exposure at such events. You can use foam or wax plugs from the drug store, or purchase Hi-Fidelity filtered noise plugs from the clinic. When heading out this summer, I know I will be packing my hearing protection for sure. Whichever event you choose to go to, protect your hearing, and enjoy!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the comments below.

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