Lower the BOOM! (and protect hearing)

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

Independence Day is a great time to celebrate with friends, family and our community. There is much food and entertainment to be had, but most anticipated is the observance of fireworks! Fireworks displays come in all forms and combinations with dazzling visual and auditory effects — “Crack, crackle, BOOM!”

While these sounds are exciting, they also represent a danger to our ears. Fireworks produce sound levels equivalent to shotgun blasts — upwards of 150 decibels! This makes July a perfect time to stress to your family the importance of safety and hearing protection.

Recent research suggests as many as two in 10 children have noise-induced hearing damage, but education and prevention is still lacking. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by damage to sensitive “hair cells” in our inner ear. Once destroyed, they do not recover, resulting in hearing loss.

  • 60 dB normal conversation, dishwasher
  • 80 dB alarm clocks
  • 90 dB hair dryers
  • 100 dB MP3 player at full volume
  • 110 dB concerts (any music genre)
  • 120 dB jet planes taking off
  • 130 dB ambulances
  • 140+ dB gun shots, fireworks

NIHL is caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise over 85 decibels (dB) — the higher the decibel level, the shorter the time before damage occurs. For example, a hair dryer at 90 dB can pose a risk, but typically only after about two hours of exposure (hope your hair is finished before then!). However, attending a rock concert at 110 dB can cause damage within two MINUTES. Several apps are available to measure approximate sound levels.

Proper selection and use of hearing protection when in noisy environments (concerts, sporting events, fireworks, races) not only provide safe listening, but special “filtered” plugs actually improve listening quality. Hearing protection comes in many styles to fit any application. Custom-fitted products can be obtained from an audiologist.

A decision to listen to music at lower levels for shorter durations should also be reinforced with children (visit http://www.TurnItToTheLeft.com). There are a number of “kid-safe” earphones or device controls available which put a limit on loudness.

When hearing protection or volume control is not an option, teach your children to walk away from loud noise. Establishing the dangers of noise and how to protect can prevent damage and encourage habits for a lifetime of healthy listening. If you suspect your child may have hearing loss or damage, schedule a check-up with a licensed doctor of audiology.

Dr. Clint Keifer is owner and audiologist at Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact his office at 419-327-2273; email at earcare@glaudiology.com; or visit http://www.GLAudiology.com.