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Potential Audibility and Effects of Ultrasonic Surveillance Monitoring of PA and Life Safety Sound Systems

Ultrasonic surveillance monitoring, to check the operational integrity of PA and Emergency Communication Systems, has been in existence for over 40 years – particularly in Europe. Since its inception, there has been debate as to the potential audibility that these systems may have. As the vast majority of PA systems engineers and designers have not heard or experienced any effects, is has generally been assumed that the general public do not either. Recently however, concern has been raised and claims of ill effects have been reported. There is however, little or no data as to the ultrasonic sound levels that PA systems actually emit. The paper discusses the results of an initial survey of ultrasound radiated by a sample of some 50 PA systems and compares the results with a number of international standards – there currently being little or no specific guidance. The paper reviews the technology involved, typical emission levels and concludes by making a number of recommendations to assist with the control of ultrasonic emissions from PA systems that should help to mitigate unintended side effects.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society