Now that the weather is warm you quite possibly have your schedule packed with parties and other plans. Being outside celebrating on Independence Day is something lots of people do. Parades, marching bands, and live music are often part of the good times, and let’s not forget fireworks! There is no cause to stay in your house and pass up on the fun, but take a second to consider how you will protect your hearing when you do go out to celebrate this summer.
Noise-induced hearing loss has an effect on nearly 6 percent of the U.S. adult population under the age of 70; that equals around 40 million people. The sad part is this form of hearing damage is pretty much 100 percent avoidable. What’s necessary is a little foresight and common sense. Think about some examples of why you need to take care of your hearing as you celebrate this season and how to do it.
Fireworks are the Summers Worst Offenders.
There are many potential dangers of fireworks but hearing damage tops the list. Experts frequently warn people about burns or fires, but usually don’t say much about hearing damage.
Boys Town National Research Hospital states you’re at risk of hearing loss from fireworks regardless if you’re shooting them off yourself or watching them at a public show. Noise-related hearing loss can begin at 85 decibels with repeated exposure. The average range of fireworks is 150 to 175 decibels. The World Health Association estimates that adults could withstand up to 140 decibels of sound for a short time, but children will surely have damage at just 120. Fireworks are normally louder than both those numbers.
The positive spin? The potential for hearing damage is exponentially lowered the further you are from the explosion. Watching the fireworks show from nearby is definitely more damaging than watching them from your porch at home. Boys Town recommends you stand at least 30 yards away if you are an adult. Babies should not be there and children should be at least 70 yards away.
Live Music is Something you Love
Who doesn’t? Summer is the greatest time for some of the best musicians come out to play. The World Health Association states that a billion teens are at risk for hearing loss from music whether it is coming from ear-buds, a parade or a favorite band playing on stage.
Any person exposed to loud music faces the same possible consequence, but time is a factor when it comes to live music. Live shows are usually louder than 100 decibels which becomes dangerous after only 15 minutes. It’s safe to say; most people attend concerts for longer than that!
And Lets not Forget About the Crowds
At celebrations, crowd noise is usually the most underestimated hearing danger. At a good event, there will be people on all sides of you shouting to talk over everybody else. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association claims that crowd noise at sports games ranges between 80 to 90 decibels. Unfortunately, it will most likely be higher and more consistent at a celebration or parade.
Mix Celebratory Fun with a Little Good Sense
What can you do to protect your ears? You may not realize that it’s actually common sense. Try to determine what the hearing risk is before the event:
- Will there be loud music?
- Large crowds?
What precautions you take depends on how loud you think the celebration will be. If there is loud music or crowds, plan on wearing ear protection. Something simple like foam earplugs will allow you to hear what’s going on still, but at a safe level.
If there is a fireworks show, take the family back to a safe distance. You don’t have to be dangerously close to enjoy fireworks. Watch from a couple of blocks away, at least, to be safe. It can also be more enjoyable to be a little further back where the crowds are less.
Holiday Celebrations Do Have Other Risks Besides Hearing Damage
Sound levels are not the only concern here. Celebrations bring with them hot sun, too much drink, too little water and fatigue. If you have tinnitus or suffer from hearing loss these things will make them worse.
Try to take it easy. If the celebration is going to last all day and into the night, maybe start later. If you’re planning on partaking of alcohol try moderation and don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Finally, figure out where you can go to take the occasional break from the heat. Is there a shady spot around? Can you get access to an air-conditioned building?
Celebrations come and go but your ears are a one time deal. You can protect your ears and still have a great time. If you are worried that you may have already suffered hearing damage it is important to schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.