Protect Your Hearing From Fireworks

fireworks-cover-1300x800.jpgWhen you think of Independence Day, one of the first things that come to mind is probably fireworks. After spending the day with fun-filled activities and barbecuing, many people will soon be heading out to ooh and aah over a display of fireworks. But whether you are watching a professional fireworks show or have purchased your own fireworks, hearing loss is a real risk.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing-Association, approximately 15% of Americans ages 20–69 have hearing loss that may have been caused by exposure to noise. Taking simple steps to protect the hearing of all family members can prevent potentially lifelong consequences.

The risk of hearing loss from fireworks is determined not only by the loudness level (in decibels) of sound, but also by the length of time someone is exposed to noise: 90 decibels can be tolerated for eight hours; 95 decibels for four hours; 100 decibels for just two hours.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, noise levels from fireworks can reach more than 140 decibels. Exposure to noise levels this high can not only be harmful but also painful to the ears and dangerous for children and adults alike. Infants should not be exposed to fireworks at all; an infant’s ear canal is much smaller than an older child's or an adult's, so the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. What might not sound that loud to an adult actually sounds up to 20 decibels louder to an infant.

These hearing protection tips can help the whole family prevent long-term damage:
  • Keep a safe distance: Noise from exploding fireworks can reach as high as 155 decibels, and if you are located close to the blasts, there is a greater risk for immediate, sudden, and permanent hearing loss. Maintain a healthy distance (at least 500 feet) from fireworks, speaker systems, and other sources of loud noise.
  • Wear ear plugs: Ear plugs are an inexpensive and easy way to protect your hearing during loud events. Make sure your ear plugs fit snugly. For children under seven or eight-years-old, use ear muffs.
  • Know your limits: The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before hearing loss can occur. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are too loud, too close or that last too long. If you notice ringing or buzzing in your ears, move farther away from the noise source.
  • Know the warning signs: Noise-induced hearing loss often does not happen right away, but occurs over time. Early signs of damage include hearing a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears, trouble hearing people at a close distance and temporary hearing loss.
If you suspect you or a loved one may have some degree of hearing damage, the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) offers comprehensive hearing evaluations and individualized treatment plan options.

For more information on PEI’s services or to make an appointment, call 215.780.3180.