For many, the Fourth of July is an all-day family event ending with the grand finale – the firework show. While many communities have cancelled their annual celebration, that does not mean you’ll be without them. Many are choosing to buy their own fireworks and set them off at home. But this could be dangerous to your hearing.
How Fireworks Can Damage Your Hearing
The second most common cause of hearing loss (behind aging) is exposure to noise. Known as noise-induced hearing loss, it occurs after exposure to loud sounds, such as a gunshot or explosion. Sounds are measured in decibels (dB); anything over 85 dB can damage the delicate hairs within your inner ear. These hairs are responsible for passing sound information via electrical impulses to your brain. Once the hairs are damaged, they cannot be repaired.
According to Dr. Leigh Ann Reel, director of the TTUHSC Center for Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, the blast from a firework can measure anywhere from 140 to 160 dB. That is louder than a jet engine.
To put this in perspective, below is the decibel ratings for familiar sounds.
- Normal conversation: 60-70 dB
- Motorcycle: 80-110 dB
- Concerts: 94-110 dB
- Police sirens: 110-129 dB
How to Protect Yourself
There are ways to help reduce your chances of developing noise-induced hearing loss during the holiday.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), you should be no closer than 500 feet to fireworks. If you are unable to move far enough away, you should wear hearing protection.
Infants should never be exposed to fireworks, as these loud noises are more dangerous to their delicate ears. Exposure to loud noises like fireworks puts them at risk for developing hearing loss in their adolescence or adulthood.
There are many options when it comes to hearing protection. In a pinch, the disposable foam earplugs purchased at your local pharmacy can be effective when used properly; they are made to fit the ears of most teenagers and adults. More expensive earmuffs and custom-made earplugs provide superior protection.
If you will be close to the fireworks, consider wearing both earplugs and earmuffs for extra protection.
To learn more about protecting your hearing during the holiday or to schedule a hearing test with a hearing professional, contact Central Plains ENT today.