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States and counties regulate fireworks in order to keep people and their properties safe. But even fireworks that are purchased and used legally can be dangerous – especially to your hearing. Learn more about the risks of fireworks and how to stay safe this Fourth of July.

Fireworks Are a Hearing Hazard Man with a firework in his hand while fireworks are exploding in the air

According to Leigh Ann Reel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Audiology in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, “You can have sudden, permanent very noticeable hearing loss from exposure to one single sound … even fireworks at close range. Fireworks can reach levels of 140 to 160 decibels. That is louder than a jet engine, high enough to have immediate damage.”

She described a case in which a patient was holding a firework that went off in their hand. The blast caused immediate and severe hearing damage. “Other than low pitch sounds, everything else was gone just from that one instance with the fireworks. So, whether you’re the one holding it or it goes off in close range, there’s certainly a possibility of having that kind of immediate severe to profound hearing loss,” she explained.

It is also important to note that, according to Jackie Clark, President of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), “Children are at particular risk for hearing loss from backyard fireworks displays, because of their excitement and curiosity and wishing to be close to the activity.”

How to Watch the Firework Display Safely

While it is important to understand the risks involved with enjoying a firework show, that doesn’t mean you cannot or should not participate. Below are some tips for keeping you and your family’s hearing safe this Fourth of July.

  1. Watch from a safe distance. The further you are from a sound source, the less damage it can do to your ears. Ideally, you should watch the show from 500 feet away. You’ll still enjoy a great view but without the sound pressure.
  2. Find a community display. Social distancing guidelines during the age of COVID may have cancelled a lot of organized community displays, but you can ask your neighbors and relatives if they’re planning an at-home show that you can watch – again, from a safe distance.
  3. Bring protection. This is especially important if you’re unable to maintain a safe distance. Earplugs can be purchased inexpensively at a drug store, or you can order custom earmolds from your audiologist’s office. Earmuffs are better suited for children, as they fit better and are not a choking hazard.
  4. Pay attention to noise output. If you have an at-home show, opt for fountains, wheels, falling leaves and comets, which are less explosive than other types while still a spectacular visual display.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call the experts at Houston Hearing Center.

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