Fireworks may be a treat for our eyes, but has anyone asked our ears what they think? The beautiful sights and loud sounds are a staple to any Fourth of July celebration in the United States, but next time consider how fireworks hurt your hearing and give your ears the day off as well.
It’s Hard to Imagine Independence Day Without Fireworks
Barbecues, fireworks, and drinks are how Americans tend to celebrate Independence Day, and even missing one can seem odd. Fireworks in particular are popular, with families and crowds often gathering to watch shows organized by their local community, city, or neighborhood.
While the colorful and exciting pyrotechnics are fun to watch, it’s important to consider their potential for harm or long-term damage to our hearing health. Close proximity or prolonged exposure to fireworks can rupture the eardrum and damage critical bones in the middle ear, temporarily, or sometimes even permanently, resulting in hearing loss.
While you may not notice the damage done right away, the damage will gradually take its toll. Over time you may notice a difficulty in understanding conversations, watching TV, and other hearing-dependent activities.
How Can Fireworks Hurt Your Hearing?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), at least 10 million adults in the U.S. under age 70 – perhaps as many as 40 million – have hearing loss in one or both ears from exposure to loud noise. Fireworks can be as loud as 140~160 decibels, and sounds over 85 decibels are considered “unsafe”.
The loud explosion of fireworks could result in mild to severe hearing loss, tinnitus (a ringing, buzzing or roaring in the ears or head, and even eardrum perforation. The louder the noise, the higher chance of hearing loss.
Also, children and babies have to be even more careful, since their ear canals are more fragile than adults. Loud sounds could even impact their cognitive development.
The World Health Organization recommends the maximum sound level for safe hearing in adults is 140 dB, and 120dB for children. The noise exposure from fireworks can easily surpass 150 dB and even reach up to 175 dB, if you do not take protective measures.
In Honor of the 4th, Here Are 4 Tips For Safe Fireworks Viewing:
Keep a Distance From Fireworks
Make an effort to keep a distance of at least 500 feet from the fireworks launch area. It will still give you a great view of the fireworks but will keep you far enough away from the loud sound. The farther you are from the noise exposure area, the less harmful to your ear.
In other words, the closer you are, the greater risk to your hearing!
Don’t Try This at Home!
The best way to protect your hearing is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Experts recommend attending public fireworks displays and leaving the lighting to the professionals. When using fireworks at home, you’re more likely to expose yourself and others to loud, damaging noises in close proximity.
Consider Wearing Earplugs or Earmuffs
Another way to enjoy fireworks is to use earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears. Ear protection will help to dampen the noise level. However wearing proper ear protection may not be enough for children’s developing hearing, and fireworks may hurt ear health.
It is best to leave infants and small children at home or far away from the launch site since their ear canals aren’t strong enough to handle the loud noise produced by fireworks.
Quiet Fireworks are common in most parts of Europe and the UK and create less sound stress for noise-sensitive people, children, veterans, the elderly, pets, and wildlife. While they maintain the spectacle of traditional fireworks, quiet fireworks can help reduce their harmful effects.
Although fireworks can at times be a danger to your hearing, they are perfectly safe if you keep your distance and protect your ears. If you are exposed to loud fireworks and experience a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head, pain, or muffled hearing, seek out medical attention.
Don’t forget to follow your local safety guidelines so that you and your loved ones can watch fireworks safely this Fourth of July!
The information in this article has been written using the following reliable sources: