Celebrate Your Hearing This 4th of July by Packing the Ear Plugs
Washington, DC, June 30, 2008 – When you're preparing to celebrate the festivities this 4th of July weekend, remember to celebrate your hearing as well by packing ear plugs to protect yourself against potential hearing loss that can result from firecrackers and other loud fireworks, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) advises.
More than 10 million Americans already have irreversible hearing damage as a result of exposure to loud noise. Still more people are likely to sustain permanent, life-changing hearing damage this 4th of July weekend, according to Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director of BHI.
Kochkin says there are ways to enjoy the Independence Day festivities and still protect your hearing.
"The best advice I can offer is to leave the fireworks to the professionals and 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," Kochkin says.
"To protect yourselves, before the show begins, make sure you're wearing ear plugs. Be sure to keep them in place for the entire show," he adds.
Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies.
"Keep in mind that the ear plugs need to fit snuggly if they are to adequately block out dangerously loud sounds," Kochkin continues. "But don't worry, you still should be able to hear any music and the conversation of those around you–it will just be at quieter, and safer, levels."
The Dangers and Signs of Loud Noise
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. The single bang of a firecracker or other loud firework has the potential to permanently damage your hearing in an instant.
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.
"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 holiday festivities by celebrating–and protecting–their hearing as well. Remember: one-third of hearing loss is preventable with proper protection. So this 4th of July, protect the hearing of your children and your own."
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 stereos, headphones, 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.
Kochkin warns that people should not personally use firecrackers to celebrate the 4th of July, since one explosion in close proximity could cause permanent hearing loss, not to mention bodily harm. There is a reason why fireworks are illegal in many states, and that is because of their inherent danger.
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Founded in 1973, the Better Hearing Institute is a not-for-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate the public about hearing loss, its treatment and prevention. To receive a free copy of BHI's 28 page booklet "Your Guide to Better Hearing," visit its website at www.betterhearing.org or call the Better Hearing Institute hotline at 1-800-EAR-WELL.
For more information on hearing protection, visit http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss_prevention/index.cfm.