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

The summer season is here, and your schedule is quite possibly already filled with all kinds of parties and plans. Almost everyone you know will be outdoors for some celebration 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. There is no reason you have to remain at home and miss out on the fun, but take a minute to give consideration to how you should take care of your hearing when you do go out to celebrate this summer.

Noise-induced hearing loss affects about 6 percent of the U.S. adult population less than the age of 70; that equates to around 40 million people. The sad part is this kind of hearing damage is practically 100 percent avoidable. All you need is a little foresight and common sense. Consider some examples of why you should really take care of your ears as you enjoy yourself this summer and how to do it.

Because Fireworks are the Worst

At the top of the list of potential dangers associated with fireworks, hearing damage is at the top. Despite that, you rarely hear experts warning people about this threat like they do with fire or burns.

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. Noise-related hearing loss can begin at 85 decibels with repeated exposure. 150 to 175 decibels is the typical range of fireworks. The World Health Association estimates that adults could withstand up to 140 decibels of sound for a short time, but children will surely have damage at just 120. 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. 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.

Live Music is Something you Love

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 everybody else. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association claims that crowd noise at sports games ranges between 80 to 90 decibels. Unfortunately, it will quite possibly be higher 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? Even though you might not know it, its actually common sense. Start by assessing your hearing risk at the event:

  • Will there be loud music?
  • Large crowds?
  • Fireworks?

You can make some practical choices based on what you expect from the celebration. It is important to wear hearing protection if you are going to be around loud music, crowds, or fireworks. 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. Fireworks can easily be enjoyed from a safe distance. A block or two away is the safest minimum distance. It can also be more enjoyable to be a little further back where the crowds are less.

What About the Non-Sound Risks at Celebrations?

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. Maybe consider starting a bit later if you plan on partying into the night. If you’re planning on partaking of alcohol try moderation and don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Getting out of the heat for short periods is essential. Can you find some shade? Is there an air-conditioned building nearby?

Celebrations come and go but your ears are a one time deal. 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.

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