Summer is a blast – sometimes literally.
The Fourth of July is a highlight of summer for people of all ages, bringing together friends and family for food, fun, and fireworks. Additionally, popular summer outings like concerts, parades and sporting events fill up our social calendars in the warmest months of the year.
These fun activities have a downside, however – the danger their noise levels pose to our hearing health. These events all have the potential to result in the following hearing conditions:
- Tinnitus: Ringing or other noise in the ears, which can occur suddenly or gradually.
- Temporary hearing loss: Results in a slight decrease in hearing, typically for less than 24 hours.
- Permanent hearing loss: Hearing loss that cannot be restored.
Celebrate the Fourth Safely
While food and fun aren’t inherently dangerous, the fireworks portion of the Fourth of July holiday can pose problems for our hearing if precautions are not taken.
Fireworks can reach sound levels of between 150 to 175 decibels (dB). The World Health Organization recommends the loudest fireworks adults should be exposed to is 140 dB (120 dB for children). Infants should be kept away from fireworks entirely, as their tiny ear canals increase the sound pressure entering the ear. This can increase the sound they hear by up to 20 dB.
It’s important to remember that prolonged exposure to sounds at or above 85 dB can cause hearing loss. How can you minimize the damage to your ears on the Fourth?
- Stay away: Staying at least 500 feet away from the colorful explosions in the sky provides a good view while not damaging the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. In general, the further away you are, the better.
- Don’t try this at home: While setting off fireworks in the backyard seems fun, you’re much more likely to be exposed to dangerous noise levels when compared to a community display run by professionals.
- Cover your ears: It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your hearing. Buy earplugs for the adults and older children in your family to protect their ears. For younger children, noise-dampening earmuffs are recommended due to their better fit and because earplugs pose a choking hazard for youngsters.
Rock On Responsibly
Concerts and parades featuring bands and various sirens are a staple of summer social calendars.
A rock band concert can average about 120 dB, so it’s important to remember to protect your hearing by wearing earplugs while listening to your favorite bands as well.