BHI Warns Against Hearing Injuries on 4th of July, America’s Loudest Day of the Year
Washington, DC, June 20, 2012 - The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging people to use sound judgment and ear plugs in celebrating the 4th of July, America’s noisiest day of the year, warning that the single bang of a firecracker at close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant. BHI also is encouraging people to protect their hearing when participating in other loud, summertime activities, including concerts, stock car races, the use of lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice, power boating, and when listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with earbuds and headphones.
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise; and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.
"Excessive noise exposure is a serious issue,” says Sergei Kochkin, BHI Executive Director. “But noise-induced hearing loss also is highly preventable. When it comes to fireworks, the best advice I can offer is to leave them to the professionals. Sit at a comfortable distance from the display, where you can enjoy the colors and lights, but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises. To protect your hearing, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs and that they’re securely in place before the show begins. And be sure to keep them in for the entire show."
Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.
BHI also reminds people that it is critically important to get regular hearing checks. When left unaddressed, hearing loss can have a very negative impact on quality of life, leading to communication difficulties, psychological stress, strained relationships, and even diminished earnings. BHI offers a free and confidential online hearing check (http://www.hearingcheck.org/) where people can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing professional.
This summer, as more and more Americans come into contact with fireworks, it becomes increasingly important that people follow good safety measures, including the use of ear protection. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, consumption of fireworks in the United States has risen dramatically over the past decade, from 152.2 million pounds in 2000 to 213.9 million pounds in 2009.
"Prevention is so critical to preserving our hearing, especially for children who are at highest risk for noise-induced hearing loss," adds Kochkin. "So make sure your family and friends fully enjoy the summer and 4th of July festivities by celebrating smart. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Stay a safe distance away. And pack the earplugs. Remember: close to 40 percent of hearing loss is preventable with proper protection."
The Dangers and Signs of Loud Noise
Loudness is measured in decibels, with silence measuring at 0 dB. Any noise above 85 dB is considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB–presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm's length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are other warning signs:
- You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
- You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can't understand them.
Anyone can take the first step to addressing hearing loss by taking a simple, interactive screening test in the privacy of their own home by going to www.hearingcheck.org.
Protecting Our Hearing
We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing of the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly–those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking.
The best way to protect hearing is to avoid excessively loud noise. When you know you'll be exposed to loud noises, like fireworks, wear ear protection. Every day you can protect your hearing by keeping down the volume on earbuds, stereos, and televisions. And you can teach children to quickly plug their ears with their fingers when they're suddenly and unexpectedly bombarded by loud sirens, jack hammers, and other loud sounds.
More About Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
Three out of four hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life due to wearing hearing aids. And studies show that when people with even mild hearing loss use hearing aids, they improve their job performance, increase their earning potential, enhance their communication skills, improve their professional and interpersonal relationships, and stave off depression.
Advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids in recent years, making them smaller with better sound quality. Designs are modern, sleek, and discreet. Clarity, greater directionality, better speech audibility in a variety of environments, better cell phone compatibility, less whistling and feedback than hearing aids of the past, and greater ruggedness for active lifestyles are common features.
About the Better Hearing Institute
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on “Discussion Forum,” and go to “Welcome!” to register.