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Is it possible for thunder to cause permanent loss of hearing?


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If you are caught out in a lightning storm and a flash of lightning goes off just a few metres away from you, could the sound of thunder be loud enough to burst your eardrums?  i think it could be possbile because thunderstorms make me jump, even if it is quite a distance away.  Thunderstorms can be exciting, but I would prefer not to be out in the open when one happens.

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Posted
  • Location: Wivenhoe, North East Essex, 2m asl
  • Location: Wivenhoe, North East Essex, 2m asl

    Highly unlikely, when you hear thunder you're hearing the sound of air expanding along the length of the lightning fork. Having stood within 10 metres of a direct hit it's more of a sizzle/cracking sound than a bang because you're only close to a small part of the fork. 
    The biggest threat to your ear drums comes from wearing headphones with the volume turned up. 

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    Posted
  • Location: Crewe, Cheshire
  • Weather Preferences: Snow, storms and other extremes
  • Location: Crewe, Cheshire
    18 minutes ago, Wivenswold said:

    Highly unlikely, when you hear thunder you're hearing the sound of air expanding along the length of the lightning fork. Having stood within 10 metres of a direct hit it's more of a sizzle/cracking sound than a bang because you're only close to a small part of the fork. 
    The biggest threat to your ear drums comes from wearing headphones with the volume turned up. 

    Very true, I’ve always much preferred to listen to music on a decent sound system…it’s just not especially practical most of the time.

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    Posted
  • Location: Leeds
  • Location: Leeds

    Highly unlikely - a thunderclap is around 120dB, with 150dB required to shatter eardrums.

    WWW.CHEM.PURDUE.EDU

    Any prolonged exposure to 120dB is enough to damage hearing - the tinnitus you get after attending a loud gig is a consequence of this damage. However, the nature of the damage tends to be that it builds over time, and results in degraded hearing and tinnitus later in life, as opposed to the immediate and catastrophic impairment that you describe.

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    Posted
  • Location: SE London
  • Location: SE London
    On 10/05/2022 at 22:49, Wivenswold said:

    Highly unlikely, when you hear thunder you're hearing the sound of air expanding along the length of the lightning fork. Having stood within 10 metres of a direct hit it's more of a sizzle/cracking sound than a bang because you're only close to a small part of the fork. 
    The biggest threat to your ear drums comes from wearing headphones with the volume turned up. 

    Ha yes same. 10m or so from a strike on a tree. Close enough to feel the ground discharge fizzle up one leg(!) and I can say my ears were the least of my worries

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