Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1994;20(2):87-92    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.1416

Prolonged exposure to gunfire noise among professional soldiers.

by Ylikoski ME

OBJECTIVES The aim of the study was a retrospective assessment of the exposure of professional soldiers to impulse noise from gunfire.

METHODS A questionnaire on noise exposure and use of hearing protectors was administered to a stratified random sample of 699 army officers (mean age 39.8 years) with an average of 18 years of exposure to shooting noise. For a comparison of the number of shots from different weapons, the peak sound pressure levels of shots were adjusted in relation to one pistol shot according to the equal energy principle. Total exposure time was estimated with the equal energy principle, the number of shots from different weapons, the energy levels of different shots, the effectiveness of hearing protection, and the distance from the noise source being taken into account.

RESULTS Rifles, shotguns, and pistols were the predominant exposure sources. Impulse noise exposure averaged 164,183 shots from different weapons. After adjustment to the energy level of one pistol shot, the average was 78,000 personally fired shots. The total shooting noise exposure averaged 218,000 adjusted shots. Translated into exposure to steady noise of 85 dB(A) for 40 h a week, the exposure to noise from personally fired shots equaled an exposure time of 22.0 years and the total exposure averaged 61.0 years. The heaviest exposure occurred during the first 10-15 years of the men's careers.

CONCLUSIONS Exposure to gunfire noise among professional soldiers is high enough to cause severe hearing deterioration already at early career stages if effective hearing protectors are not worn at all times on shooting occasions.