Give Your Ears a Happy New Year

Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, 
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…” Alfred Tennyson


NY7New Year’s is a time of anticipation and hope that in the year ahead things will be done, aspirations completed, and new goals set. New Year’s Eve, the last day on the Gregorian calendar, is a time for making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays. These days with the Internet it is possible to watch New Year Celebrations from around the world as various time zones bring us one celebration after another.

Listed below and at right are some celebrations to bring in 2014: 


Sydney Harbor New Year's Eve 2014
Sydney Harbor New Year’s Eve 2014year in style.          One of the largest and most elaborate New Year’s Celebrations worldwide takes place in Sydney, Australia, where the Harbor is alive with boats, fireworks, music and other sounds of a new beginning.   Other “Hot Spots” for ringing in the New Year are New York’s Times Square, London, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Parade, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Hong Kong and other cities around the world.   While all of these cities and many others  celebrate the new year with all its hope and anxiety, there are noise regulations in all of them that must be considered when planning fireworks and other  celebrations.





The Brief History of New Year’s Celebration

The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recorded  new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, about 2000 B.C. and it was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates

Egyptian Hieroglyphics depicting New Years Celebration
Egyptian Hieroglyphics depicting New Years Celebration

tied to the seasons were also used by different ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.  The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The Roman calendar had just ten months, beginning with March.

The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls—the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman one.

Ball Dropping in Times Square, New York, USA
Ball Dropping in Times Square, New York, USAcalendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would start on January 1, and throughout the Roman Empire, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.

In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and un-Christian. In 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire —and their American colonies— still celebrated the new year in March.

The Noise of a New Year’s Celebration?

While there may have been controversy over when to have New Year’s Celebrations in the early times, it seems that these issues are well settled for NY92014.  It is, however, a very noisy time of year with fireworks, noisemakers, bars, yelling and screaming crowds, and other loud sounds piercing the environment.  While there are many places where fireworks must be sanctioned by the government, even in places where fireworks are legal for citizens, there are still issues.  In Juneau, Alaska, USA, police will respond to complaints of firework activity, particularly when it’s disturbing the peace.  So just because the fireworks are legal, that doesn’t mean the noise they make is.

It’s not just disturbing the peace that is an issue. So too is that many of the sounds associated with end-of-year parties reach intensity levels far above those considered safe. Therefore it’s important to take extra personal precautions at this time of year.

Fireworks and firecrackers have been found to register noise levels of 162 dB and 150 dB, respectively. Attending a New Year’s Eve band or rock concert? That music may reach levels of 110 to 120 dB. Marching bands trumpet sounds of 100 dB. And those noise makers everyone likes to blow at midnight? They can measure140 dB — more than twice the safe NY2limit.  To avoid experiencing hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noises this New Year’s Eve you and your patients should adhere to these obvious tips:

1.  Invest in a set of inexpensive foam earplugs, available at local drugstores. These can reduce noise by as much as 30 dB.

2.  If you’re attending a rock or band concert, choose a seat at a safe distance from the speakers and, if possible, choose an outside venue or facility with good acoustics where sound can dissipate easily.

3.  Hearing aid users should adjust their program memory settings for noise reduction or a reduced level in the music setting. If their instrument doesn’t have this feature, a pair of noise-reducing earmuffs can be of benefit.

4.  If children are joining you at New Year’s celebrations, take the advice of Drew Brees and Gwyneth Paltrow by making hearing protection a family affair. Talk to your kids about the importance of wearing hearing protection.

Added September 2017 – Check out a great discussion of protecting children’s hearing by Roan Health.

These precautions should help prevent people from damaging their hearing or developing a temporary case of tinnitus. It’s not just the excessive noise of football stadiums, but also some of the most routine celebratory events that can be damaging to ears.

Have a Careful, Noise Reduced, New Year’s Eve and a Happy New Year from Hearing International


About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.