While the Fourth of July serves as a day when we take pride in remembering the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there are several modern qualities that tend to steal the spotlight. Hot dogs, parades and rousing renditions of "the Star Spangled Banner" come to mind as crucial components to Independence Day, but it's often fireworks that take center stage. However, these colorful displays may be putting your auditory health at risk if the proper precautions aren't taken.
Fireworks are a somewhat controversial element to the summer holiday, causing an estimated 200 trips to the emergency room in the U.S. every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While the injuries typically pertain to the face or skin, the hearing loss risks associated with the dangerous decibel levels produced from fireworks are often overlooked. Fireworks are able to generate levels between 150 and 175 dBs. Auditory damage can occur at 85 dBs, meaning fireworks generate noise that is more than double the amount of impairing noises, depending on how close you are to the pyrotechnics.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, it's estimated that America sets off nearly 200 million pounds of fireworks every year, with the bulk being used on the Fourth of July. Fireworks have been estimated to cause 1 in 10,000 people permanent hearing damage. Taking simple safety precautions when using or watching fireworks may drastically reduce your likelihood of long-term hearing loss, tinnitus and ossicles damage. Here are some general tips to protect your hearing this Fourth of July:
Keep your distance
The best part about fireworks is watching them, not hearing them. So, does getting as close as possible have to be a top priority when attending this year's events? The further away from the source of pyrotechnics you are, the lower decibel levels you are exposed to. If you are safely and legally shooting off firecrackers and bottle rockets in the neighborhood, get back as far as you can after they are lit, and cover your ears for blast off.
The importance of ear plugs
It is incredible how simply putting two small pieces of foam in your ear can drastically reduce the risk of hearing loss. Ear plugs are cheap, easy to use and can decrease the decibel levels your ears are exposed to by upwards of 30 dB.
Recognize signs of hearing damage
If you find yourself waking up the morning after the fireworks show to sensations of ringing, buzzing or muffling in your ears, you may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, an auditory condition you shouldn't ignore. If these symptoms continue to worsen over time, it's crucial that you go and see an audiologist or hearing health care professional to determine the extent of the damage you have endured.