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Noise Health. 2009 Oct-Dec;11(45):223-30. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.56216.

Estimates of the auditory risk from outdoor impulse noise. I: Firecrackers.

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Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008, USA.


Firecrackers are common impulse noise exposures in the United States. In this study, impulses produced outdoors by consumer firecrackers were recorded, described, and analyzed with respect to the amount of the auditory risk they pose to the unprotected listener under various listening conditions. Risk estimates were obtained using three contemporary damage risk criteria (DRC), including a waveform parameter-based approach (peak SPL and B duration), an energy-based criterion (A-weighted sound exposure level and equivalent continuous level), and a physiological model (the AHAAH model developed by Price and Kalb). Results from these DRC were converted into numbers of maximum permissible unprotected exposures to facilitate comparison. Acoustic characteristics of firecracker impulses varied with the distance, but only subtle differences were observed across firecrackers. Typical peak levels ranged between 171 dB SPL at 0.5 m and 142 dB SPL at 8 m. Estimates of the auditory risk did not differ significantly across firecrackers, but varied with the distance. Vast differences in maximum permissible exposures were observed, and the directions of the differences varied with the level of the impulse. Typical estimates of maximum permissible exposures ranged between 0 and 2 at 0.5 m and between 31 and 227,000 at 8 m. Unprotected exposures to firecracker impulses should be limited or avoided entirely if the firecrackers are ignited in batches within 8 m of the listener. Differences across DRC are inconsequential at 0.5 m, but have substantial implications at distances of 1 m and more.

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