Fireworks and Hearing Safety

Planning on catching a public firework show or crafting one of your own tonight? Here is what you should know about fireworks and hearing safety.

How Fireworks Affect Your Ears

Hearing loss is a real risk around fireworks whether you are attending a public display or putting on your own show in your backyard. The typical volume of fireworks average 150-175 decibels. For perspective, human ears are susceptible to damage to any sounds louder than 85 decibels.

Just how loud a firework is to your ear depends on 2 things:

  1. How far away you are from the source

  2. How long you are exposed

The closer you are to the source, the more likely you are to experience a hearing loss. Standing right next to a firework without hearing protection will cause immediate permanent damage. It is the same as standing right next to a jet engine! For children and infants, the risk for hearing loss is even greater due to them receiving greater sound pressure in their smaller ear canals.  

Signs of damage

How will you know if damage has occurred? The most common signs of damage to your hearing after loud noise exposure is:

  1. Tinnitus (Ringing in the ears)

    This is the #1 symptom of hearing loss. While it can be temporary it can also be permanent. There is no cure for tinnitus though there are ways to manage the condition to make it less bothersome.
  2. Muffled hearing

    Hearing loss can also be temporary or permanent depending on how long and how loud of noise you were exposed to. There is no cure for permanent hearing loss either. Hearing aids are the best treatment for noise-induced hearing loss in most cases.

If you experience tinnitus or muffled hearing loss following exposure to fireworks you should follow up with an audiologist for a hearing test to determine if changes are temporary or permanent.

How to Prevent Damage

  1. Keep a safe distance

    Adults should stay 50-65 feet away and children should stay 165-200 feet away from the source of the fireworks.
  2. Wear hearing protection

    Adults can easily put in some foam plugs picked up at a local drug store or supermarket to reduce their risk of hearing loss. If you are putting on a backyard display, you should double up with foam plugs and over the ear ear muffs since you will be very close to the source. Children’s ears tend to be too small for foam plugs and for young children the plugs are a choking hazard. While it is too late to order some children's earmuffs on Amazon for today, you can pick up earmuffs at your local Walmart.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Are you experiencing ringing in your ears or muffled hearing?