Now that it’s summer you probably have your agenda filled with parties and other plans. Almost everyone you know will be outdoors for some festivity the next couple weeks as The Fourth of July is just around the corner. With it comes marching bands, live music, parades and, of course, fireworks. When going out to celebrate this holiday season, don’t lose out on the fun, just take a moment to carefully consider how you should take care of your hearing.
Noise-induced hearing loss impacts around 6 percent of the U.S. adult populace under the age of 70; that equals around 40 million people. It’s sad that this type of hearing damage is nearly 100 percent preventable. All you need is a little foresight and common sense. Consider some reasons you really should take care of your ears as you celebrate this season and the best ways of doing it.
Basically Fireworks are the Worst
At the top of the list of potential dangers associated with fireworks, hearing damage is at the top. Hearing damage is not mentioned much by experts, but it tops the list of dangers associated with fireworks.
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. For short durations 140 decibels is the limit for adults and 120 decibels for children before hearing damage may happen. Both those numbers are lower than fireworks.
The positive spin? The further away you are away from the explosion, the lower your risk of hearing damage. For example, if you’re sitting in the stands at a field where they are shooting off the fireworks, you’re at greater risk than someone watching it from their porch. 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. Live shows are usually louder than 100 decibels which becomes dangerous after only 15 minutes. Almost all concerts are longer than that!
It is Easy to Forget how Loud the Crowd is
Crowds are the most underestimated hearing danger at celebrations. At a good event, there will be people on all sides of you shouting to talk over everyone else. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that at sporting events the crowd volume is 80 to 90 dB. Unfortunately, it will probably be higher and more consistent at a celebration or parade.
Use Common Sense When Celebrating
What type of protection should you use for your ears? You may not realize that it’s actually common sense. Assess the hearing risk of the event beforehand:
- Will there be loud music?
- Large crowds?
You can make some useful choices based on what you expect from the celebration. If there is loud music or crowds, plan on wearing ear protection. If you still want to hear whats going on, but at a safe level, you should consider trying foam earplugs.
The family should be kept at a safe distance during a fireworks show. 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.
Holiday Celebrations Do Have Other Risks Besides Hearing Damage
There is more to talk about here than just sound. Celebrations bring with them hot sun, too much drink, too little water and fatigue. 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. Bring lots of water with you to prevent dehydration and if you are drinking alcohol, do it in moderation. You also need to be able to go somewhere and get out of the heat for a while. Is there a shady spot around? Are you anywhere near a public building with air conditioning?
Don’t expose yourself to permanent hearing damage for a once a year celebration. Do what you must to keep them safe while still enjoying the good times. If you are worried that you may have already suffered hearing damage it is important to make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.