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Protect your hearing while enjoying fireworks

Show on Corporate Home, Body

Food, friends and fireworks are all part of our annual celebration of the Fourth of July. We enjoy all those aspects of the holiday, but one can cause real damage. If we don’t handle them properly and take preventive measures, the fireworks that we light off in our neighborhoods—including those screaming Picollo Petes—can damage our hearing. 

“Explosive sounds can be just as harmful as continuously elevated noise levels over an extended period,” says audiologist Wyatt Andrus, AuD. “These noises can affect the nerve in the cochlea.” Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is also an issue with exposure to loud bangs and explosive noises. Tinnitus can be a “temporary threshold shift” in hearing, but there’s always some permanent shift as well. 

 “If you’re attending a community fireworks show at a stadium or park, you should be at a safe distance,” says Dr. Andrus. “If you’re celebrating with your own fireworks, you need to be mindful. Ensure a safe distance and use ear protection.” Small children should wear earmuff-type hearing protectors and adults can use soft foam ear plugs. 

And we’re all susceptible to hearing loss. However, for individuals who already have compromised hearing and are exposed to loud noises, that exposure creates more sustained hearing loss more quickly. 

What can you do to restore hearing once you’ve been exposed to the sound of a bang or explosion like being too close to loud fireworks? Unfortunately, nothing—the damage is done. That is why prevention is the key, says Dr. Andrus. 

Hearing loss is deceptive because we don’t realize it’s happening. It takes place a little bit at time and we adjust for it without realizing we are turning the TV up louder or asking people to repeat themselves. Oftentimes you don’t know it’s a problem until others tell you, says Dr. Andrus. 

So be wise this Fourth of July if you’re planning to set off a few firecrackers with your family and friends. Stay a safe distance from the blasts and cover those ears to be sure you can continue to enjoy the sounds of family and friends far into the future.