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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
4-Dec-2013

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Contact: Jennifer Lauren Lee
jlee@aip.org
301-209-3099
American Institute of Physics

What a Formula 1 race does to your eardrums

Track-side noise may exceed 8,500 percent of a person's daily recommended noise exposure, according to new research presented at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 2, 2013 As an acoustical engineer, Craig Dolder currently a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin knew that loud noises can damage hearing. Even so, when Canada's Formula 1 Grand Prix coincided with an Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting that he was attending in Montreal, Quebec, earlier this year, Dolder was drawn to the racetrack and the deafening roar of the Formula 1 engines.

And he brought his sound level meter with him.

"I've always wanted to go to one of those races," Dolder said. "So I made the arrangements, and then I thought to myself: This is going to be really loud. What do I need to wear to protect myself?"

The advice he found online was "all over the spectrum," he said, with some people recommending foam earplugs and earmuffs, some prescribing noise-canceling headphones, and still others avowing that getting your ears blasted was an integral part of the Formula 1 experience. The technical papers he read provided assessments of sound levels for NASCAR and other races, but he could find nothing that measured the noise levels or dosage specifically for Formula 1. So he decided to conduct his own test at the Montreal racetrack.

"I thought the information should be out there so people could make a more informed decision about what to wear for hearing protection," he said.

Dolder stood among the general admission crowd within about 25 feet of the racing cars, and he measured the sound at three different locations. Formula 1 tracks are not a simple oval shape, so the noise levels can be significantly different depending on whether drivers are slowing down for a hairpin turn or revving their engines for a straightaway. After gathering his data, Dolder calculated the noise dosage at the three locations and compared it to dosage standards used in the U.S.

Of the locations he tested, the loudest by far was at the end of a hairpin turn just before a straightaway. Dolder calculated that without hearing protection, an audience member would get 234 percent of his daily allowed noise dosage going by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Using the much stricter standards imposed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the noise at this location leapt to a staggering 8,585 percent. These two standards serve to protect workers against cumulative noise exposure (5 days a week, 8 hours a day for a working life), so these dosages alone do not indicate the potential for permanent damage after one race, Dolder said.

The quietest position he tested was at the beginning of an S turn, when drivers were slowing down. Here, an audience member would get only 53 percent of his daily noise dosage by OSHA standards.

Where spectators stand to view the race probably does not matter as long as they are wearing good hearing protection, he said. And a good pair of ear muffs should not get too much in the way of a full experience of the race.

"You will still feel [those loud noises] in your body," Dolder said. "But it's not worth the risk of exposing yourself to that noise unprotected."

Dolder will present his results at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) which will not coincide with a Formula 1 race this year to be held Dec. 2-6, 2013, in San Francisco, Calif.

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Presentation 5aNS7, "Noise exposure in the general audience of a Formula 1 race," will take place on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. PST. The abstract describing this work can be found here: http://asa2013.abstractcentral.com/planner.jsp.

ABOUT THE MEETING

The 166th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), to be held Dec. 2-6, 2013, at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, will feature more than 1,100 presentations on sound and its applications in physics, engineering, and medicine. The meeting program can be accessed at: http://asa2013.abstractcentral.com/planner.jsp.

OTHER USEFUL LINKS

Main meeting website: http://acousticalsociety.org/meetings/san_francisco

Hotel site: http://www.sanfrancisco.hilton.com

ASA World Wide Press Room: http://www.acoustics.org/press

WORLD WIDE PRESS ROOM

ASA's World Wide Press Room (http://www.acoustics.org/press) will feature dozens of newsworthy stories through lay-language papers, which are 300-1200 word summaries of presentations written by scientists for a general audience and accompanied by photos, audio, and video.

PRESS REGISTRATION

We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact Jason Bardi (jbardi@aip.org, 240-535-4954), who can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.

LIVE MEDIA WEBCAST

A press briefing featuring a selection of newsworthy research will be webcast live from the conference. Date and time to be announced. To register, visit http://www.aipwebcasting.com.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, ECHOES newsletter, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org.

This news release was prepared for the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) by the American Institute of Physics (AIP).



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