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ZammoUK

Question about the sound level of thunder

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Hope people don't mind me posting here, I am not actually a follower of weather and this is my first post. The reason I am posting is quite trivial and will probably make me sound like a hypercondriac or paranoid, but I will ask anyway :)

I was woken up this morning by the loudest noise I have heard, it was thunder, a sudden loud clap lasting perhaps 5 seconds or so (might be longer but I was asleep, ha). I sleep in a wood chalet and my head was around a meter from a open window. I didn't automatically cover my ears but it was hell of a shock and extremely loud. I have heard lots of thunder in my life but never like this, it was like a bomb had exploded or something. Obviously the fact it woke me up and I was half asleep could of magnified this effect. I am just concerned whether this could of done any damage to my ears ? I know it makes me sound paranoid, but I feel a bit like I have a pressure feeling in my right ear with lowered sound, but I know that could be me causing that as I am perhaps over listening too much and it could be like this all the time normally. I was asleep during the lightning but my parents (who were a street away) said there was about 4 seconds delay making it around a mile or less in distance. Afterwards the heavens opened and when I peaked outside there was the blackest clouds I have ever seen, right next to pure blue sky, weird.

How likely is the noise to have caused damage ? Or would I need to be outside and have prolonged exposure ? My ears didn't ring and I didn't notice any problem at the time, but since then I have the above "issues", but like I say that could be me listening too much and straining my ears trying to hear if there is any difference :) I have had annoyances with my ears for years (such as tinnitus) as I used to be a DJ so I am paranoid about further damage happening to them.

Obviously I don't expect anyone here to be a doctor or audiologist, just wondered really about thunder noise levels and the likely hood of one clap doing any ear damage in the above circumstances.

Thanks all :)

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Close thunderclaps have been measured at about 120db which is certainly very loud but, for the short duration of the sound, wouldn't normally cause any long lasting hearing problems.

Hearing damage is generally caused above about 135-140db unless the exposure is prolonged.

Having said that you may have particularly sensitive ears, or perhaps the percussive pressure of the thunder dislodged a small amount of wax within your inner ear and this is causing the problem.

There are ( rare ) documented cases of window panes being broken by the percussive effect of thunder so it's certainly a potentially powerful effect.

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Judging by your description of the thunder I'd say a bolt of lightning struck very near to where you were.

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Another thing that could have been a factor is atmospheric audio ducting, the sound wave gets trapped in this case within a air layer thats close to the ground. The sound has no were to escape making it a lot louder then a normal crack of thunder. Think of it like a firework, you let a fire cracker off in the open palm of your hand and it burns but doesn't do any damage. As soon as you close your hand and set it off you will lose your fingers etc.

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Just to add to the replies above in addition to any sustained level of sound one also has to pay attention to the rate of sound pressure increase as the ear will try to compensate for an increase in SPL but a sudden burst does not give the ear mechanism time to adjust catching it unawares in effect.

In addition exposure to high SPL's over a period of time tends to have a cumulative effect. Not sure what the noise spectrum of thunder is but any particular band of high intensity frequencies (again repeated over time) will lessen the ears ability to transmit that particular range of sound to the brain.

The morel is always wear ear muffs to bed just in case smiliz39.gif

As an aside one of my favourite oldies is "there's something in the air" by Thunderclap Newman laugh.png

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Thanks everyone, I really appreciate the advice and information. Amazing how loud mother mature can be sometimes. It was quite amazing too to see the contrast between the huge black clouds and the blue sky next to it. It is a shame I wasn't awake for the lightning as it would have been interesting to see where it struck.

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Judging by your description and my experience, it was 100% a positive CG lightning discharge. :) A quite common type of lightning for cold part of the year, or final stages of thunderstorms.

And about the damage, I don't think one bang will do you much harm. I've experienced many close bangs, some made me deaf for couple of second, yet my hearing is still great, or so I was told by the doctor 6 months ago, when I had to take a full health check for my new job.

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I was in a big electrical storm last December in South Africa, When you get a really close strike it is like being next to a grenade or a big firework. After one particularity close strike i was knocked to the ground. It was enough to leave my ears ringing for a week. The lightning hit no more than 10 meters from me and i remember such an intense pain in my chest area it felt like i had been punched in the lungs! Interestingly my camera and blackberry i had in my backpack never worked again.

I have also seen a house in Johannesburg with smashed windows after a tree was obliterated by lightning outside the building.

I'm down right fascinated by lightning but also scared to death of it at the same time!

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When I was in Florida lightning hit a tree only about 20m away from me. It was easily the loudest single short sound I had ever heard.

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