Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

Now that the weather is warm you most likely have your schedule loaded with parties and other plans. Being outdoors celebrating on The Fourth of July is something many people do. Parades, marching bands, and live music are often part of the fun, and don’t forget fireworks! There is no cause to remain in your house and pass up on the fun, but take a moment to think of how you will protect your hearing when you do go out to celebrate this summer.

Noise-induced hearing loss affects around 6 percent of the U.S. adult population less than the age of 70; that equates to around 40 million people. It’s sad that this kind of hearing damage is just about 100 percent preventable. All you need is a little foresight and common sense. Take into consideration some reasons you really should take care of your ears as you enjoy yourself this summer and how to do it.

At the top of the List of Offenders are Booming Fireworks.

At the top of the list of potential dangers associated with fireworks, hearing damage is at the top. Experts frequently warn people about burns or fires, but usually don’t say much about hearing damage.

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. With extensive exposure, any sound over 85 decibels can cause noise-related hearing damage. Fireworks typically range from 150 to 175 decibels. Even though adults may tolerate up to 140 decibels for a short time, children can only take short periods at 120 decibels. This is according to the World Health Association. Still, both those numbers are lower than what you would expect from a firework

The positive spin? Your chance of hearing loss is reduced the further you are away from the explosion. Watching the fireworks show from nearby is definitely more damaging than watching them from your porch at home. Boys Town recommends you stand at least 30 yards away if you are an adult. Children should be 70 yards away to protect their hearing and babies shouldn’t be there at all.

You Really Love Live Music

Who doesn’t? And summer celebrations bring out some of the best musicians in the world! 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.

Hearing loss is a constant factor when it comes to repeated exposure to loud music. A sound at 100 decibels, which is typical level for live shows, becomes dangerous after just 15 minutes. It’s safe to say; most people attend concerts for longer than that!

It is Easy to Forget how Loud the Crowd is

The most underestimated danger for hearing damage is crowd noise. When the crowd is into the celebration everybody is talking and yelling loudly. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that at sporting events the crowd volume is 80 to 90 dB. Unfortunately, it will most likely be louder and more consistent at a celebration or parade.

A Small Amount of Common Sense Goes a Long Way

How can you keep your ears protected? You may not realize that it’s 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. If there is loud music or crowds, plan on wearing ear protection. Something simple like foam earplugs will allow you to hear what’s going on still, but at a safe level.

If there is a fireworks show, take the family back to a safe distance. You don’t have to be dangerously close to enjoy fireworks. Plan on watching from at least a block or two away. It can also be more enjoyable to be a little further back where the crowds are less.

The Sumer Season has Other Risks Besides Hearing Damage

Noise is only one of several concerns. Hot sun, not enough water, excessive drinking, and fatigue also can be a concern. If you already have some hearing loss or if you suffer from tinnitus, these things will get worse.

Try not to overdo it. Don’t go to the celebration too early if it’s going to be a late night. Always drink plenty of water and try to moderate your alcohol consumption. Finally, figure out where you can go to take the occasional break from the heat. Is there a shady spot around? 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 make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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