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Charity highlights loudest noise amid Bonfire Night bangs

Tuesday 6th November 2018
Action on Hearing Loss has highlighted the possible impact on hearing of firework displays.
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The charity Action on Hearing Loss has marked Bonfire Night by publishing a checklist of the loudest noises that people can be exposed to, noting that persistently hearing high-volume sounds can damage hearing. 

Loud bangers let off during fireworks displays are third on the list at 120 decibels, only topped by the 180 decibels of a rocket launch and the 230 decibels of the call of a sperm whale. 

Of course, most people will not be spending a lot of time at sea with whales or watching launches from Florida, but early November will have brought multiple opportunities to hear loud fireworks, particularly for those who enjoy the occasion enough to attend several displays. 

Some fireworks shows can also be accompanied by music, which can add to the impact on hearing. Indeed, the fourth-loudest noise people can commonly be exposed to is a live gig at 110 decibels, followed by a trip to a nightclub at 100.

The rest of the top ten is comprised of fire alarms (97), lawnmowers (94), heavy traffic (88), food blenders (85) and hoovering (75). Exposure to many of these will be far more frequent than events such as fireworks, as they are not confined to early November and the new year.

Senior audiologist at the charity Gemma Twitchen said: "Every day we expose our ears to heavy traffic, kitchen appliances and live music, but most people do not know what is deemed safe and what can be potentially damaging to your hearing."

She added that being too near a firework as it goes off can cause hearing damage or tinnitus. 

The charity advised that those going to firework displays should stay a long way from the source of loud sounds, use ear plugs or mufflers if necessary, take breaks away from the noise if there is a long display and also to drink plenty, as being dehydrated can increase the vulnerability of the inner ear. 

Public displays will tend to have fences in place to keep the crowds distant from the fireworks for safety reasons, but this will not apply in cases where people have their own private parties in back gardens. 

Written by James Puckle

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