If you are planning to celebrate the 4th of July in the U.S. by shooting off fireworks or perhaps watching a fireworks display on the 14th of July in France, be aware of your hearing!
Even though fireworks are thrilling, the sound pressure from fireworks can lead to hearing damage when protection is not used.
Fireworks can affect your hearing
The sound output produced by fireworks can reach 150-175 dB. For adults, the recommendation from the World Health Organization is not to be exposed to more than 140 dB of peak sound pressure. While for children it is only 120 dB. Infants generally experience the greatest sound pressure and should not be exposed to fireworks.
Exposure to loud sounds such as fireworks can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.
Distance and headphones
To decrease the risk of hearing loss as a result of fireworks, audiologist Nathan Williams from the Ear, nose and throat institute at Boys Town in the US recommends two precautions.
First is the distance from the sound source. The farther away you get from the firework explosion, the lower the decibel level will be and hence less likely to affect your hearing. If dealing with fireworks of 170 dB, adults needs to be 15 to 20 meters away from the fireworks before they are at a safe distance, while children have to be 50 to 60 meters away from the same fireworks.
Second is the use of ear plugs or headphones to protect the ears against the loud sound output. “If you will be setting off fireworks or are watching nearby, both roll-down foam plugs and headphones are strongly recommended for maximum hearing protecting”, Williams stresses.
If you suspect that you might have a hearing loss or tinnitus due to fireworks, you should consult your family doctor/GP.
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