Make sure it’s the old year that goes with a bang and not your ears

As more of us choose to celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the new with our own firework celebrations, Deafness Research UK is today (December 31) reminding people to take care of their hearing.

Hearing health is easily forgotten when considering general firework safety, but following a few simple rules will make sure your New Year’s Eve festivities go with a bang, without the risk of damaging your family’s hearing.

Modern fireworks are capable of producing noise in excess of 155 decibels (db), and extended exposure to 85 db risks irreversible hearing damage.

Organisers and spectators need to consider tips for ear protection – particularly for very young children unaware of the risks.

Protect your children’s (and your own) hearing by following some simple rules:

– Choose appropriate fireworks for your garden – avoid the very loud ones in ‘category 5’

– Timing – remember setting off fireworks is illegal after 1 am on 1 January 2013

– Make sure you let off fireworks in an open area and stand well back. Check the box for the recommended distance

– Never set off very loud fireworks in an enclosed, built up area – sound bounces off buildings and amplifies the noise

– If you are unsure about noise levels, wear ear plugs or ear protectors.

– For the majority, New Year’s Eve will pass off without incident, but if you suffer from hearing problems or have concerns about elderly or young members of your family, earplugs are widely available and affordable way of cutting down the noise without cutting out the fun.

Vivienne Michael, chief executive of Deafness Research UK said: “While the message on firework safety is getting through on 5th November, there is a risk that we all forget to stay safe come the 31st December.”

“Fireworks are fun and a great way to see out the old year and welcome in the new and we’re not asking people to stop enjoying them, but just be aware of the dangers.

“The very loudest fireworks, particularly if set off in enclosed spaces such as back gardens could result in long-term hearing damage through noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

“Children are at particular risk, as their hearing is more sensitive but with a bit of common sense, the evening will be one to remember for all the right reasons.”

Many fireworks, particularly the very loud ‘cakes’ usually require spectators to stand at least 25-30 metres away, but many people don’t have back gardens of this size and this can cause problems.

Hearing loss is a greater risk in enclosed garden spaces, so select fireworks appropriate to your garden and the space you have available.

“Organised displays are amazing and comply with health and safety, but displays at home are down to you,” added Vivienne.

“So if you do have fireworks at home, follow the firework code and protect your hearing by choosing the right fireworks. Keep the family safe and have a happy start to the New Year.”

For information on deafness and hearing conditions e-mail or visit Deafness Research UK’s website at

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (January 3) Echo.