It’s almost time to celebrate the red, white and blue! The Fourth of July is a wonderful time for us in the United States. It’s a time for us to honor those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence we enjoy today. July fourth is also an opportunity for us to gather with friends and family to enjoy pool time, sunshine, barbeque, and of course, awesome fireworks.
The festive, fun, and patriotic celebration of Independence Day also brings with it a real danger – one most of us likely have not considered. This danger is noise induced hearing loss, and those wonderful fireworks we look forward to each year may be to blame. Before the celebration this year, it is important to take some time to consider how you can protect your family’s hearing to enjoy a safe and healthy holiday.
Excess exposure to any noise, regardless of its source, has the potential to cause hearing loss. This type of impairment is called Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and can affect anyone at any age. In fact, it is estimated that about one in four young adults aged 20-69 do have an identifiable hearing loss and this number is only set to grow. Rates of noise induced hearing loss have been on the rise for quite some time, with an estimated 1.1 billion youth between the ages of 12-35 being at risk for developing a noise induced hearing impairment caused by recreational activities (http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss). Once acquired, noise induced hearing loss is rarely temporary and cannot be reinstated or cured. Once your hearing has been damaged by noise and is gone, its gone. This is why it is so important to remain educated about common dangers to your hearing, and how you can protect it.
Yes. Surprisingly enough, fireworks really are loud enough to cause damage to hearing, especially fireworks purchased for home use. When fired nearby, fireworks can ring in at a deafening 150-175 decibels – which is loud enough to cause instant hearing damage (https://www.boystownhospital.org/knowledgeCenter/articles/hearing/Pages/Fireworks.aspx). As perspective, an ambulance siren driving past rings in at only 120 decibels – quite a bit quieter than nearby fireworks. Fireworks are not only a sight for sore eyes, but can also be a sound to cause sore ears, too!
Just because fireworks have the potential to damage hearing, doesn’t mean you and your loved ones can’t participate in all the fun. There are some very easy and inexpensive steps you can take to ensure your family enjoys the festivities and protects their hearing.
There are many options when it comes to hearing protection. The best and most effective choice is custom-made earplugs designed for the purpose, however, these are not readily available to everyone. Disposable earplugs can also be effective. Disposable earplugs should have a clearly marked Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which will indicate how many decibels of sound are blocked by the plugs. It may be smart to purchase your family’s earplugs in advance to allow everyone an opportunity to test them for comfort. Smaller children’s earplugs can improve comfort for the littlest ears amongst us. Pack enough earplugs for the whole family (not just the kids!) and be sure to include a few extras.
The further you are from where the fireworks are launched, the lower the noise level will be. Finding a spot that is a little bit away from the heart of the action can help to protect your family’s hearing. Being “away from it all” may also be a breath of fresh air, allowing you the room and peace to really enjoy the time with your loved ones.
Even with hearing protection and location in mind, it is important to still be cognizant of how the sounds are affecting you and your family. If at any time you notice yourself or one of your family members covering their ears, or expressing ear pain or buzzing or ringing in the ears, it’s a sign the environment is too loud. It may be time to find a spot even more set apart or maybe even enjoy the view from indoors.
Chances are, your family won’t lose their hearing over one night of fireworks, though it is important to teach healthy hearing habits as early as possible. From our family to yours, we truly wish you a very happy, safe, fun and healthy Independence Day this year!