Have a Blast as You Celebrate, But Remember to Protect Your Ears

Recognizing Independence Day, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July and hearing

The pop, bang and loud explosions of fireworks displays help to make America’s annual celebration of Independence Day an exciting event. While the earth-shaking booms are captivating, the high-decibel (dB) sounds of fireworks may damage your hearing. And once hearing is damaged, it cannot be reversed or repaired. This type of hearing loss is called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and may lead to hearing impairment or eventually result in complete hearing loss.

NIHL often results when you are exposed to an extremely loud noise, such as the repetition of a booming fireworks cannon. The American Hearing Research Foundation states that the louder the noise, the shorter the amount of time before your hearing is injured. For example, without hearing protection you can hear a lawn mower continually running at 90 dB for four hours before hurting your hearing, but you can listen to a rock concert at 110 dB for only 15 minutes before you experience hearing damage.

To help you understand the decibel level of common sounds, review this list:

  • Rustling leaves:  10 dB
  • Whispering:  20 dB
  • Refrigerator hum:  40 dB
  • Rush-hour traffic:  70 dB
  • Vacuum cleaner:  80 dB
  • Lawn mower:  90 dB
  • Front row of a music concert:  110 dB
  • Fireworks viewed at 800 feet:  88 to 126 dB
  • Fireworks viewed at 10 feet:  155 dB
  • Motorcycle, firecracker:  120 to 150 dB
  • Takeoff of a military jet:  140 dB

If you attend a fireworks display, use earplugs to prevent hearing damage. If you can, bring enough for you and your family and friends. The general rule of thumb is that anytime you cannot converse with someone standing next to you without yelling, the sound is too loud, and you need to take steps to protect your hearing. If you have been exposed to loud noises and notice a change in your hearing, schedule an appointment with your doctor or hearing professional to have your hearing evaluated.

What is your favorite aspect of a professional fireworks show? Do you enjoy the spectacular colors or the loud booms when the fireworks explode? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group