How to Protect Your Hearing this Bonfire Night

Yes, The 5th November is almost here. The brilliant bonfires and fantastic fireworks will soon be bursting into life, painting the skies with their cocktails of colours. So, don’t commit treason and protect your hearing. Not sure how? Here’s our advice.

Before We Begin: How Loud Are Fireworks?

Fireworks over Tower BridgeWooooosh! Bang! Fizzzzzzzzz! That is what I associate with fireworks. However, did you know that they can achieve anywhere between 140-175 dB? That would be same as you standing under a jet plane as it’s taking off.

Exposure to these excessive noise levels over a just short period can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations, anyone working at a fireworks display should be wearing hearing protection to prevent immediate nerve damage.

Don’t forget the sound produced by fireworks also affects those not attending displays through noise pollution. The constant whizzing, popping and banging can disrupt sleep, frighten vulnerable people and cause stress. Domestic and wild animals also suffer, which can cause them to become agitated, aggressive and destruction.

When you consider that fireworks are mini-explosives, I suppose it’s no surprise the amount of the sounds and problems they generate. Back in 2011, our very own James Tingay also reported on fireworks noise. I recommend reading his post “Noise levels from fireworks – a very unscientific measurement!” as it has some very useful insights.

Top Tips for Protecting Your Hearing

When it comes to protecting your hearing at a fireworks display, there are 2 recommended options.

  1. Stand further away

It might sound obvious, but moving further away can greatly decrease the sound levels you are exposed to. The minimum distance for adults is between 15-20 metres, whereas as children should be 50-60 metres away from the display. You can also appreciate the overall display more from a distance.

  1. Use hearing protection

Have you been to a fireworks display and left with a rushing or ringing sensation in your ears? Do ordinary sounds seem muffled or are quieter than normal? If so, that is a sign you’ve been exposed to damaging sound levels and should wear hearing protection in future. Ear plugs and headphones can block excessive noise from reaching the inner ear, where it causes the most damage.

What Does the Law Say?

We do have extra protection in the UK thanks to The Fireworks Regulations 2004. This prohibits the supply of any Category 3 Firework that exceeds 120 dB. Organisers also have a set of guidelines for measuring firework noise:

(a) At a horizontal distance of fifteen metres from the testing point at a height of one metre above the ground; and

(b) Using a sound measuring device which conforms to type 1 of BS EN 61672 with a free-field microphone

Another Solution: Noiseless Fireworks?

Diwali hit the headlines recently as environmental groups urged people to use quiet firecrackers to reduce noise in cities and smaller communities. Firecrackers exceeding 125 dB were prohibited from sale but was it successful?

In Allahabad alone, The Times of India reported that “The pollution level rose by four to 17 decibels at residential, commercial and even silent zones of the city this Diwali making it the most ‘unhealthy’ festival of lights’ in the last few decades.”

With those reported noise levels, it is no wonder that sales of quiet fireworks are booming. There was a time when going for choosing quiet fireworks meant less spectacular displays but that is changing, as reported by UK Firework Review.

“Britons, We Want You!”

Your-Country-Needs-YouSo, we’ve given you some tips on how to protect your hearing this Bonfire Night but now it’s over to you. If you’re attending a fireworks display, take a sound level meter and see for yourself the dangerous decibels that fireworks can create. Share your results on Twitter using the hashtag #FireworkNoise or contact our noise experts.

Remember, remember the 5th November, decibels, hearing and plot. I see no reason, why hearing protection should ever be forgot. (Yes, it’s hard to rewrite a classic)