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Family enjoying independence day celebration oblivious to the risk of hearing loss from fireworks.

Summer is cool because you can fill your agenda with parties and other activities. Almost everyone you know will be outside for some event the next couple weeks as Independence Day is just around the corner. Parades, marching bands, and live music are often part of the good times, and let’s not forget fireworks! When going out to have fun this summer, don’t lose out on the fun, just take a minute to carefully consider how you might take care of your hearing.

Noise-induced hearing loss has an effect on about 6 percent of the U.S. adult population less than the age of 70; that equals around 40 million people. It’s sad that this form of hearing damage is pretty much 100 percent avoidable. It just takes a little forethought and common sense. Think about some reasons you should really protect your hearing as you celebrate this season and how to do it.

Because Fireworks are the Most Harmful

With all the potential dangers that come with fireworks, hearing damage tops the list. Experts frequently warn people about burns or fires, but usually don’t say much about hearing damage.

Boys Town National Research Hospital states you’re at risk of hearing loss from fireworks regardless if you’re shooting them off yourself or watching them at a public show. Noise-related hearing loss can begin at 85 decibels with repeated exposure. 150 to 175 decibels is the typical range of fireworks. For short durations 140 decibels is the limit for adults and 120 decibels for children before hearing damage may happen. Still, both those numbers are lower than what you would expect from a firework

The positive spin? The further away you are away from the explosion, the lower your risk of hearing damage. Watching the fireworks show from nearby is definitely more damaging than watching them from your porch at home. If you are an adult it is recommended that you stand at least 30 yards away. Babies should not be there and children should be at least 70 yards away.

You Really Love Live Music

Who doesn’t? Summer is the greatest time for some of the best musicians come out to play. The World Health Association states that a billion teens are at risk for hearing loss from music whether it is coming from ear-buds, a parade or a favorite band playing on stage.

Any person exposed to loud music faces the same possible consequence, but time is a factor when it comes to live music. Live shows are usually louder than 100 decibels which becomes dangerous after only 15 minutes. Almost all concerts are longer than that!

The Crowd Noise Maybe Louder Than You Would Think

At celebrations, crowd noise is usually the most underestimated hearing danger. At a good event, there will be people on all sides of you shouting to talk over everybody else. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association claims that crowd noise at sports games ranges between 80 to 90 decibels. Unfortunately, it will quite possibly be louder and more consistent at a celebration or parade.

A Small Amount of Common Sense Goes a Long Way

How can you keep your ears safe? It’s a lot more common sense than you might think. Try to determine what the hearing risk is before the event:

  • Will there be loud music?
  • Large crowds?
  • Fireworks?

You can make some useful choices based on what you expect from the celebration. While enjoying live music, crowds, or fireworks, you need to wear ear protection. Something simple like foam earplugs will allow you to hear what’s going on still, but at a safe level.

If there is a fireworks show, take the family back to a safe distance. The nature of fireworks means you can enjoy them without being in the front row. Plan on watching from at least a block or two away. There will be fewer people back there, too, so you’ll be able to enjoy the show more comfortably.

Hearing Damage is not the Only Risk of the Summer

There is more to talk about here than just sound. Hot sun, not enough water, excessive drinking, and fatigue also can be a concern. If you already have some hearing loss or if you suffer from tinnitus, these things will get worse.

Try to take it easy. Maybe consider starting a bit later if you plan on partying into the night. Bring lots of water with you to prevent dehydration and if you are drinking alcohol, do it in moderation. Finally, figure out where you can go to take the occasional break from the heat. Where is the nearest shade? Can you get access to an air-conditioned building?

Don’t expose yourself to permanent hearing damage for a once a year celebration. Enjoy the holiday but be sure to take care of your ears also. If you are worried that you may have already suffered hearing damage it is important to schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.