As we kick off July, we want to provide some helpful reminders that will keep your summer celebration safe and enjoyable. During Fourth of July events, we are exposed to blasts from fireworks that sometimes last well into the night. Even though each blast may be brief, fireworks are capable of producing the same level of noise as a jet engine, ranging between 125-155 decibels (dB). Any noise above 85 dB can cause damage, so close exposure to fireworks can cause hearing loss almost immediately:
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 in 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.
There are ways to enjoy a fireworks show without causing permanent damage. First, it’s best to leave the fireworks to the professionals while keeping a comfortable distance to enjoy the colors and lights. If you are unsure how loud the fireworks may be, or if you are not able to enjoy from a distance, bring along disposable earplugs to wear throughout the event. Earplugs must fit snuggly to adequately block excessive noise, so carefully read the instructions on the earplug packaging. Earplugs are an inexpensive and easy way to protect fragile areas in our inner ear.
If you are exposed to hazardous noise this holiday and are worried about your hearing health, take note of the warning signs of hearing loss:
Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!