4th of July Hearing Safety Tips
Nathan Williams, Au.D., CCC-A
Boys Town Audiologist
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 it's 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 people who are adults that they not be exposed to anything longer than a hundred and forty decibels of peak some pressure and for a kid, one hundred and twenty decibels of peak sound pressure.
So when we think about a firework that fires at one hundred and seventy decibels that person would have to stand approximately fifteen to twenty meters away before they're at a safe limit.
For a child that's much greater in the fifty to sixty 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 wouldn't 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.
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.
As an Audiologist, I'm not recommending that you sit at home and not enjoy these activities but 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.