1A-4.1 General Information/Introduction. Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) in minutes for exposure of divers to sonar transmissions are given in Tables 1A-3 through 1A-6.
1A-4.1.1 Effects of Exposure. Tables 1A-3 through 1A-5 are divided by horizontal double lines. Exposure conditions above the double lines should be avoided for routine operations. As Sound Pressure Level (SPL) increases above 215 dB for hooded divers, slight visual-field shifts (probably due to direct stimulation of the semicircular canals), fogging of the face plate, spraying of any water within the mask, and other effects may occur. In the presence of long sonar pulses (one second or longer), depth gauges may become erratic and regulators may tend to free-flow. Divers at Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory experiencing these phenomena during controlled research report that while these effects are unpleasant, they are tolerable. Similar data are not available for un-hooded divers but visual-field shifts may occur for these divers at lower levels. If divers need to be exposed to such conditions, they must be carefully briefed and, if feasible, given short training exposures under carefully controlled conditions. Because the probability of physiological damage increases markedly as sound pressures increase beyond 200 dB at any frequency, exposure of divers above 200 dB is prohibited unless full wet suits and hoods are worn. Fully protected divers (full wet suits and hoods) must not be exposed to SPLs in excess of 215 dB at any frequency for any reason.
1A-4.1.2 Suit and Hood Characteristics. There is some variation in nomenclature and characteristics of suits and hoods used by divers. The subjects who participated in the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory experiments used 3/8-inch nylon-lined neoprene wet suits and hoods. Subsequent research has shown that 3/16-inch wet suit hoods provide about the same attenuation as 3/8-inch hoods. Hoods should be well fitted and cover the skull completely including cheek and chin areas. The use of wet-suit hoods as underwater ear protection is strongly recommended.
1A-4.1.3 In-Water Hearing vs. In-Gas Hearing. A distinction is made between in-water hearing and in-gas hearing. In-water hearing occurs when the skull is directly in contact with the water, as when the head is bare or covered with a wet-suit hood. In-gas hearing occurs when the skull is surrounded by gas as in the MK 21 diving helmet. In-water hearing occurs by bone conduction—sound incident anywhere on the skull is transmitted to the inner ear, bypassing the external and middle ear. Ingas hearing occurs in the normal way—sound enters the external ear canal and stimulates the inner ear through the middle ear.
1A-4.2 Directions for Completing the Sonar Diving Distances Worksheet. Follow the steps listed below to determine Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for the case when the actual dB Sound Pressure Level (SPL) at the dive site is unknown. Figure 1A-1 is a worksheet for computing the safe diving distance/exposure time. Figures 1A-2 through 1A-5 are completed worksheets using example problems. Work through these example problems before applying the worksheet to your particular situation.
Step 1. Diver Dress. Identify the type of diving equipment—wet-suit un-hooded; wet-suit hooded; helmeted. Check the appropriate entry on step 1 of the worksheet.
Step 2. Sonar Type(s). Identify from the ship's Commanding Officer or representative the type(s) of sonar that will be transmitting during the period of time the diver is planned to be in the water. Enter the sonar type(s) in step 2 of the worksheet.
Step 3. PEL Table Selection. Use the Table 1A-1 to determine which PEL table you will use for your calculations. For swimsuit diving use wet suit un-hooded tables. Check the table used in step 3 of the worksheet.
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