Ascent Hearing is joining the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) in urging people to use sound judgment and ear plugs in celebrating the 4th of July, America’s noisiest day of the year. The single bang of a firecracker at close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant. Ascent Hearing and BHI also are encouraging people to protect their hearing when participating in other loud, summertime activities, including concerts, stock car races, the use of lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice, power boating, and when listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with earbuds and headphones.
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise; and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day. Children are most vulnerable.
“Noise-induced hearing loss can be life-changing, but it also is highly preventable,” says Dr. Bob Smith, Audiologist for Ascent Hearing. “That’s why this 4th of July, Ascent Hearing is raising awareness about the risk that fireworks pose to hearing. And we are encouraging people to both leave the fireworks to the professionals and to use earplugs when attending fireworks celebrations.”
Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.
Ascent Hearing also reminds the community that regular hearing checks are critically important for detecting hearing loss early and for getting appropriate help in order to minimize the negative impact that unaddressed hearing loss can have on quality-of-life. We offer complimentary hearing evaluations.
“Prevention is so critical to preserving our hearing, especially for children who are at highest risk for noise-induced hearing loss,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s Executive Director. “So make sure your family and friends fully enjoy the summer and 4th of July festivities by celebrating smart. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Stay a safe distance away. And pack the earplugs. Remember: close to 40 percent of hearing loss is preventable with proper protection.”
The Dangers and Signs of Loud Noise
Loudness is measured in decibels, with silence measuring at 0 dB. Any noise above 85 dB is considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB–presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are other warning signs:
- You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
- You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
- You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.
Protecting Our Hearing
We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing of the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly–those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking.
The best way to protect hearing is to avoid excessively loud noise. When you know you’ll be exposed to loud noises, like fireworks, wear ear protection. Every day you can protect your hearing by keeping down the volume on earbuds, stereos, and televisions. And you can teach children to quickly plug their ears with their fingers when they’re suddenly and unexpectedly bombarded by loud sirens, jack hammers, and other loud sounds.