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How to Protect Your Family's Hearing from Fourth of July Fireworks

The Short of It

Fireworks, firecrackers and concerts may be Fourth of July traditions, but they also make the holiday one of the noisiest and most likely to cause hearing loss.

The Lowdown

Noise from exploding fireworks can reach as high as 155 decibels, which is louder than a jackhammer (130 dB), a jet plane taking off (120dB), and a chainsaw (100 dB). Sounds louder than 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and although hearing loss is often believed to be an issue that progresses over time, it can also be caused by an instantaneous loud noise.

"July 4th is a wonderful opportunity for revelry, but we must ensure that our hearing health does not fall prey to our desire to celebrate," said Elizabeth McCrea, ASHA president. "By taking a few easy, preventive measures, all people can commemorate the holiday and safeguard their hearing health."

ASHA offers these hearing protection tips for the Fourth of July:

  • Keep a safe distance. The closer you are to the source of the noise, there is greater risk for immediate, sudden and permanent hearing loss. Stay at least 500 feet from fireworks, firecrackers, speaker systems and other sources of loud noise.
  • Wear earplugs. Ear plugs are an inexpensive and easy way to protect your hearing during loud events. Make sure your ear plugs fit snugly. For children under 8 years old, use ear muffs.
  • Know your limits. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are "too loud" and "too close" or that last "too long." If you notice ringing or buzzing in your ears, move farther away from the noise source.
  • Seek professional help. If you feel that your or your child's hearing may have been affected, seek the help of a certified audiologist. Find a professional in your area on ASHA's website, and learn more about how to protect your and your child's hearing from loud noises.

The Upshot

Fourth of July is a fun holiday for families to celebrate, but it's important not to forget to be safe while enjoying the festivities. In addition to protecting your hearing from the booms of the light display overhead, consider some fun alternatives to firecrackers and teach your kids sparkler safety to avoid a trip to the emergency room.

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