Protect Your Family's Hearing This 4th Of July
The weather is hot and the stars and stripes are abound! Fourth of July and our opportunity to celebrate our independence with our loved ones is right around the corner. Before you even begin planning food for the picnic or how to get the best view of the fireworks – its important to first plan hearing protection for your family. We don’t always associate Fourth of July with hearing protection, however, we probably should. It has been estimated that fireworks regularly sound-off at an explosive 150-175 decibels when at a close distance (https://www.boystownhospital.org/knowledgeCenter/articles/hearing/Pages/Fireworks.aspx). To put this into perspective, an ambulance driving by rings in at about 120 decibels, and the World Health Organization recommends adults not expose themselves to noises over 140 decibels. (https://www.audicus.com/noise-levels-of-everyday-sounds/).
Why Does This Matter?
Hearing loss caused by excess noise exposure – called Noise Induced Hearing Loss – is a real cause for concern, and its effects are on the rise. Recent CDC data reports that about 25% of young people aged 20-69 has some degree of hearing loss, and that number jumps up to about 33% for those who work in noisy environments (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/news/2017/us-adults-aged-20-69-years-show-signs-noise-induced-hearing-loss). It is estimated by the World Health Organization that approximately 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for developing noise induced hearing loss due to noise exposure through personal listening devices as well as other noisy recreational activities (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en/).
Noise induced hearing loss is also serious. Most often, this type of hearing loss is permanent, and the effects of untreated hearing loss have been known to trickle into other areas of life, such as emotional health, social relationships, work productivity and earning potential, as well as cognitive processing.
What Can We Do?
These statistics by no means warn you to bunker up in a sound-proof basement this Independence Day! There are a few easy measures you can take to enjoy a fun, safe, and hearing health conscious holiday. Worry less about your family’s hearing by following these tips.
- Use hearing protection. While watching the fireworks show, hearing protection should be the first line of defense and worn by every member of the family, not just the kids. If you have custom hearing protection, this would be the top choice. If custom-made earplugs are not an option, disposable earplugs will also dull the noise – thus inducing less risk on your hearing. Noise cancelling headphones are another wonderful option, and one your teenagers may already own and feel comfortable wearing.
- Location, location, location. Many of us like to arrive at the park or venue early – in an attempt to get the “best” spot closest to the firework action, however, this is definitely not the best choice for your hearing. The good thing about fireworks is that the action happens high in the sky, meaning that even if you are sitting a bit further back, your view should not be distorted. Choosing a location set back a bit will not only help to protect your hearing, but may also give you a bit more room and space to enjoy the show with those you love.
- Know healthy limits. With quality hearing protection in tow and by keeping your distance from the firework site – you’ll have already taken more precautions than most in protecting your hearing, however, it is also important to know your limits. If you or a family member feels the need to cover their ears, feels any pain in the ears or hearing ringing or buzzing – this is a good sign that it may be time to move a bit further away or take a break from the action. There are also a few smartphone apps that can be downloaded that measure noise levels in terms of decibels to help you keep track of your family’s noise exposure. When in doubt, its better to err on the side of caution.
Most of the time, one night of fireworks will not end up being the “make it or break it” moment that causes noise induced hearing loss. Although this is the case, exposing your family to the importance of hearing protection early and often will help them to develop a lifetime of healthy hearing habits – ones they will hopefully carry with them and for generations to come.