The Big Bang Theory: How to protect your ears from fireworks

Jun 29, 2020


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: fireworks.

Surprisingly enough, big community displays of fireworks are probably not your biggest concern. That’s because you’re farther away from the explosions, explains Dr. Greg Borgmeyer, lead audiologist for Adventist Health Portland’s rehabilitation services. More concerning are the screams and bangs coming from fireworks we light off in our own neighborhoods.

A single loud burst — such as from a firecreaker — can actually damage the eardrum or even break the bones of the middle ear, according to Dr. Borgmeyer. But lesser sounds over longer periods of time can be damaging too. Think of the loud screams from those unmistakable whistling or shrieking fireworks.

Ear protection means hearing loss prevention

You can take steps to reduce your risk of hearing damage, including staying farther back from fireworks. “Use ear protection—ear plugs, over-the-ear earmuffs or even doubling up,” Dr. Borgmeyer recommends. “It depends on how close you’re going to be.”

And we’re all susceptible to hearing loss — even children, who are often stressed by the noises as well. 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. Borgmeyer.

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. Often you don’t know it’s a problem until others tell you, says Dr. Borgmeyer explains.

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.

Adventist Health Portland’s audiology department provides state-of-the-art professional care to help you with hearing and balance problems. We also help you avoid these issues by offering screening programs. 

Learn more about our services and treatment options.