We have written about quiet fireworks before, noting that noise is part of the design of traditional fireworks. But as Councillor Jeannette Sunderland asserts, “[t]he manufacture of fireworks has progressed and it is now possible to hold displays and events of quieter fireworks which can create ‘quieter’ displays, ‘low noise’ displays or silent displays which reduce the noise nuisance and impact on others in terms of acoustic stress.”
It’s not impossible to remove some noise from our lives without giving up things that people enjoy. Fireworks are, primarily, a visual display. While there are those who may love the noise that accompanies the brilliant display, by limiting it the experience can be enjoyed by many more people.
Why would someone want quiet fireworks, you may ask? Pet owners know that cats and particularly dogs can be adversely affected by fireworks, but humans are at risk as well:
For people, loud fireworks can lead to hearing loss. The World Health Organization lists 120 decibels as the pain threshold for sound, including sharp sounds such as thunderclaps. Fireworks are louder than that.
Dr. Williams also sees higher traffic to his clinic after Independence Day. “We usually see a handful of people every year,” he said. “In these cases, hearing loss is more likely to be permanent.”
And Dr. Williams added that children are more vulnerable to hearing loss from fireworks because they have more sensitive hearing. So if you are going to a fireworks display this weekend, enjoy it safely and bring ear plugs for the whole family.
And the advice offered by Anne Sommer, an audiology clinical instructor at Purdue, that double hearing protection–foam ear plugs and ear muffs–should be used when setting off personal fireworks is sound.
I would only add that if double protection is needed for an unnecessary task, the more prudent option is to avoid exposure. After all, one really shouldn’t set off personal fireworks unless one is willing to accept the loss of an eye or a finger. Fireworks, which are banned in Los Angeles, are inherently dangerous and are really best left to the pros.
Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.
Yesterday was Bonfire Night in the UK, a time spent with friends and family, lighting bonfires and enjoying fireworks displays. As in the U.S., people look forward to the parties and displays, but they worry about how the noise makes their pets anxious and fearful. Here’s a useful piece from The Warrington Guardian that looks at how pet owners can protect their stressed out pets.
Many dogs are afraid of fireworks, as the noise causes them to hide or howl with fear and anxiety. Trish Hernandez, The Taos News, tells you how you can protect your dog from this trauma. Her article offers a number of helpful solutions to help your pooch make it through the upcoming fireworks season (which can run all summer long in places like New York City).
First and foremost, Hernandez strongly suggests that you not leave your dog home alone, noting that “[d]ogs with phobic reactions to fireworks can easily panic and injure themselves in the process….[and] [m]any panicked dogs find ways to escape from their yards and can be further injured or killed while running loose.” That said, your home is the best place for your dog, and staying with him or her will help to keep them distracted (and a few extra treats won’t hurt). Hernandez also gives advice for people with multiple dogs, noting that “if one dog already exhibits a fearful or phobic response to the sound of fireworks, [you should] separate the dogs so that non-fearful dog does not “catch” the fear.”
It’s not just pets who suffer from firework noise, humans can too. An editorial in The Adirondack Daily Enterprise notes that “[t]he booms and bangs of fireworks can be particularly harsh for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder,” adding that “[t]he sound of gunshot-like noises can trigger flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and even suicide.”
While taking steps to ease the trauma for humans and dogs is the obvious course, maybe we need to think about logical long-term solutions, like avoiding the trauma in the first place. For example, we could advocate for a ban on loud fireworks like the thoughtful residents of Collecchio, a town in the province of Parma, Italy. The local government there “introduced new legislation forcing citizens to use silent fireworks as a way of respecting the animals” by reducing the stress caused by noise from conventional fireworks.
That is, instead of each of us trying to protect humans and animals from the trauma of loud fireworks, we could protect everyone by requiring the use quiet fireworks. Quiet fireworks have existed for decades, and they are just as vivid and colorful as their conventional cousins. But unlike conventional fireworks, they don’t traumatize animals or people or cause hearing damage.
Cat Bowen, Romper, looks at whether fireworks can hurt babies’ ears. Bowen, who is deaf, has a daughter who is hard of hearing, so she is particularly concerned about the impact of noisy fireworks, writing “that what little hearing we have, we want to protect at all costs.”
Bowen points to a Boys Town National Research Hospital report which states that “fireworks register at over 140 decibels of sound” and recommends safe distances for adults and children. Bowen writes that adults “need to be about 65 feet away from the fireworks to be considered safe,” but it’s more than double that for a child.
But what about babies? Bowen says that “it’s different with babies,” because there is no hearing protection gear made for infants under six months. So “[c]an fireworks hurt your baby’s ears?” “Absolutely,” says Bowen, who recommends that you limit your baby’s exposure, try using protective headphones, and “keep you and your baby as far from the fireworks as you can while still enjoying the view.”
Every year around the 4th of July we see a couple of articles on how to help your pet deal with the trauma they suffer during fireworks season. This year the advice is courtesy of the Carroll Count Times, where correspondent Iris Katz dispenses the usual nuggets of useful information:
Owners are advised to slowly inhale and exhale when fireworks and thunder start, play calming music, keep high value treats or toys on within reach to give the dog when thunder starts or a firework goes off and to keep tossing treats and toys. Food puzzle toys, like goody-stuffed Kongs or food dispensing toys, may be pleasant distractions for sound-sensitive dogs.
Once again another community has come to the conclusion that fireworks noise must be controlled to protect wildlife. This time enforcement has come after a horrific reaction to a New Year’s fireworks display. Namely, Devon council in the UK will enforce a noise limit on fireworks after a New Year’s display startled nearby birds resulting in death for hundreds of them.
Ford has designed a noise-cancelling kennel aimed at easing the anxiety and fear dogs experience during fireworks displays. It’s attractive and no doubt achieves its goal, but it’s also an expensive piece of kit that will be out of reach for most dog owners.
So kudos to Ford for looking out for man’s best friend, but why don’t we protect all dogs by demanding quiet fireworks instead?