Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

Family enjoying independence day celebration oblivious to the risk of hearing loss from fireworks.

The warm weather season is here, and your agenda is most likely already filled with all kinds of parties and plans. Being outside partying on The Fourth of July is something many people do. Parades, marching bands, and live music are commonly part of the fun, and let’s not forget fireworks! When going out to have fun this summer, don’t lose out on the fun, just take a minute to consider how you should protect your hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss affects around 6 percent of the U.S. adult population under the age of 70; that equals around 40 million people. The unfortunate part is this form of hearing damage is pretty much 100 percent avoidable. What’s necessary is a little forethought and common sense. Think about some examples of why you should really protect your ears as you celebrate this summer and the best ways of doing it.

Because Fireworks are the Worst

With all the potential dangers that come with fireworks, hearing damage tops the list. Despite that, you rarely hear experts warning people about this threat like they do with fire or burns.

Boys Town National Research Hospital states you’re at risk of hearing loss from fireworks regardless if you’re shooting them off yourself or watching them at a public show. After all, any sound over 85 decibels is capable of causing noise-related damage with extensive exposure. The standard range of fireworks is 150 to 175 decibels. The World Health Association estimates that adults could withstand up to 140 decibels of sound for a short time, but children will surely have damage at just 120. Fireworks are commonly louder than both those numbers.

The good news? The further away you are away from the explosion, the lower your risk of hearing damage. For example, if you’re sitting in the stands at a field where they are shooting off the fireworks, you’re at greater risk than someone watching it from their porch. If you are an adult it is recommended that you stand at least 30 yards away. Children should be 70 yards away to protect their hearing and babies shouldn’t be there at all.

Live Music is Something you Love

Who doesn’t? Summer is the greatest time for some of the best musicians come out to play. The World Health Association states that a billion teens are at risk for hearing loss from music whether it is coming from ear-buds, a parade or a favorite band playing on stage.

Any person exposed to loud music faces the same possible consequence, but time is a factor when it comes to live music. A sound at 100 decibels, which is typical level for live shows, becomes dangerous after just 15 minutes. Most of the time a live concert is much longer than that.

The Crowd Noise Maybe Louder Than You Would Think

At celebrations, crowd noise is usually the most underestimated hearing danger. At a good event, there will be people on all sides of you shouting to talk over everyone else. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that at sporting events the crowd volume is 80 to 90 dB. Unfortunately, it will probably be louder and more consistent at a parade or celebration.

A Small Amount of Common Sense Goes a Long Way

What type of protection should you use for your ears? Even though you might not know it, its actually common sense. Start by assessing your hearing risk at the event:

  • Will there be loud music?
  • Large crowds?
  • Fireworks?

If you expect that the celebration is going to be loud you can make the smart choice. While enjoying live music, crowds, or fireworks, you need to wear ear protection. If you still want to hear whats going on, but at a safe level, you should consider trying foam earplugs.

The family should be kept at a safe distance during a fireworks show. Fireworks can easily be enjoyed from a safe distance. Plan on watching from at least a block or two away. Being a little further away helps you avoid large crowds making the show more enjoyable

Holiday Celebrations Do Have Other Risks Besides Hearing Damage

There is more to talk about here than just sound. Hot sun, not enough water, excessive drinking, and fatigue also can be a concern. These things can make hearing loss or tinnitus worse.

Try not to overdo it. If the celebration is going to last all day and into the night, maybe start later. Always drink plenty of water and try to moderate your alcohol consumption. You also need to be able to go somewhere and get out of the heat for a while. Where is the nearest shade? Are you anywhere near a public building with air conditioning?

Celebrations come every year, but you only get one pair of ears. Enjoy the holiday but be sure to protect your ears also. If you are worried that you may have already suffered hearing damage it is important to schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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