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

Summertime is nice because you can fill your schedule with parties and plans. It’s almost Independence Day and nearly everybody you know will be outdoors enjoying. Parades, marching bands, and live music are usually part of the fun, and don’t forget fireworks! There is no reason you have to remain home and pass up on the good times, but take a moment to give consideration to how you should protect your hearing when you do go out to celebrate this holiday season.

Noise-induced hearing loss impacts about 6 percent of the U.S. adult population below the age of 70; that equals around 40 million people. It’s unfortunate that this type of hearing damage is virtually 100 percent avoidable. All you need is a little foresight and good sense. Consider some reasons you should take care of your hearing as you celebrate this summer and the best ways of doing it.

Leading the List of Offenders are Exploding Fireworks.

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. After all, any sound over 85 decibels is capable of causing noise-related damage with extensive 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. Still, both those numbers are lower than what you would expect from a firework

The good news? 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 take care of their hearing and babies shouldn’t be there at all.

You Really Love Live Music

Who doesn’t? Summer is the greatest time for some of the best musicians come out to play. 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!

Crowd Noise is Easily Overlooked

The most underestimated danger for hearing damage is crowd noise. 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 probably be higher and more consistent at a parade or celebration.

Use Common Sense When Celebrating

What type of protection should you use for your ears? You might not realize that it’s actually common sense. Assess the hearing risk of the event beforehand:

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

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. Something simple like foam earplugs will allow you to hear what’s going on still, but at a safe level.

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. There will be fewer people back there, too, so you’ll be able to enjoy the show more comfortably.

Hearing Damage is not the Only Risk of the Summer

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. 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? Can you get access to an air-conditioned building?

Celebrations come and go but your ears are a one time deal. You can protect your ears and still have a great time. If you are worried that you may have already suffered hearing damage it is important to schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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