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Big bangs: Protect your hearing this 4th of July

Health and Wellness

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 blasts from fireworks can damage our hearing. 

Explosive sounds can be just as harmful as continuously elevated noise levels over an extended period. 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. 

How to protect your hearing

By following these steps, you can still enjoy the fireworks show while protecting your hearing:

  • Keep your distance. The farther away you are, the safer your ears will be. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to easily hear and understand another person speaking at an arm's length away. If you have to shout, it's too loud. 
  • Use ear protection. Small children should wear earmuff-type hearing protectors and adults can use soft foam ear plugs. Infants' ears shouldn't be exposed to fireworks so you may want to stay home if you have little ones.
  • Know when to call it quits. If you (or your kids) are experiencing discomfort from the noise, it may be time to back further away or head home. The longer you're exposed to too-loud sounds, the harder it is on your ears.

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. 

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.

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. 

Year-round tinnitus: Stopping that ringing in your ears

If you suffer from ringing, buzzing, whooshing or clicking in your ears — also known as tinnitus — you’re not alone. Tinnitus affects 50 million Americans and can impact many aspects of your life from sleep, to lack of concentration, to anxiety and depression.

The Adventist Health Portland audiology team has developed an innovative, effective blend of sound and behavioral therapy to help you stop the vicious cycle of tinnitus and your reaction to it. Learn about our tinnitus management program.