4th of July Hearing Tips
Whether you are shooting fireworks in your drive-way or watching a public display, you could be at risk of having some hearing damage.
How Fireworks Affect Hearing
Fireworks produce a sound output that is in the 150 to 175 decibel range. Each year, many people experience some damage to their hearing as a result of fireworks.
There are two things to note when considering whether or not fireworks will have the potential to cause hearing loss. First is the distance a person is from the sound source. Sound is less likely to affect your hearing the further you are positioned from the firework explosion.
The second thing to consider is how loud the firework actually is. The World Health Organization recommends that adults not be exposed to more than 140 decibels of peak sound pressure. For children, the recommendation is 120 decibels. If you are dealing with a firework that explodes at 170 decibels, you would have to stand 15 to 20 meters away before you are at a safe limit. Children would have to stand 50 to 60 meters away from that same firework. Infants should not be exposed to fireworks, because they generally experience the greatest amount of sound pressure.
Exposure to loud sounds can result in the following:
- Tinnitus – ringing in the ears, which can be a symptom of hearing loss.
- Temporary threshold shift – slight decrease in hearing, which usually only lasts 24 hours.
- Permanent hearing loss – a change in hearing that is permanent and cannot be restored.
Protect Your Ears
Whether you are participating in recreational or professional fireworks, hearing protection is encouraged in both situations. You could be at risk of having some hearing damage. There are two types of ear plugs that can be bought at your local drug store, super market or sporting goods store. There are roll-down foam plugs that go into the ear or headphones that sit over top of the ear. Headphones tend to be easier to wear, are more comfortable, and tend to offer more protection. If you will be setting off fireworks or are watching nearby, both roll-down foam plugs and headphones are strongly recommended for maximum hearing protection.
If a person suspects that they have had a change in hearing, a hearing test is advised. If changes have occurred, the doctor can determine if it is a temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Although fireworks are exciting, it is important to realize they can be dangerous to your hearing. With the right precautions you and your family and friends can enjoy the Fourth of July holiday without the fear of hearing loss.
4th of July Hearing Safety Tips
Many people each year will probably experience some damage to their hearing as a result of watching fireworks. When we throw a stone into a lake there is a ripple effect and sound is the same way. At that center point or if you're closest to the firework its going to be very loud and cause the most risk for developing any hearing loss.
The further distance away you get the lesser the likelihood of that occurring. One recommendation by the World Health Organization is that adults that they not be exposed to anything longer than a 140 decibels of peak sound pressure and for a kid, 120 decibels of peak sound pressure. So when we think about a firework that fires at 170 decibels - that person would have to stand approximately 15-20 meters away before they're at a safe distance.
For a child that distance needs to be much greater, around 50-60 meters away. When we think about children verses adults and how loud noise impacts them, it all comes down to anatomy. With the diameter of the ear canal it's smaller in children than in adults, and that sound pressure is generated greater in a child's ear canal then it is in an adult ear canal. For an infant, I would not recommend taking them to any type of environment where the sound is going to be very loud such as a fireworks display or a concert. That sound pressure is so much greater and their ear canal is so much smaller. You can think about it about it as when you're watering a garden or a tree and you put your thumb over the end of the hose, you make the diameter smaller and the pressure is greater. Both big fireworks displays such as that a baseball game or a Fourth of July festival and those that people set off from their driveways, hearing protection is recommended for both situations.
What Type of Hearing Protection is Recommended for Fireworks?
There are basically two types of hearing protectors that are available. These can be purchased from any regular drugstore outlet or sporting goods store. There are roll down foam plugs that can go into the ear or headphones that sit over the top of the ear. Headphones tend to be a little bit more comfortable and offer a little bit more protection. For people who are setting off fireworks either at home or professionally, I would strongly recommend the use of both ear plugs and ear muffs to give them the most protection especially if they're setting off multiple fireworks because they're going to place themselves at greater risk being so close to the firework and not having an opportunity to get further away from the firework before it actually explodes. The Fourth of July is a very fun time and it's a week that many Americans celebrate. With properly fit hearing protection you can reduce the risk of any noise-induced hearing loss but you can also enjoy the show and really enjoy this American holiday.