Fourth of July means fireworks! I don't want to rain on your parade (since the Fourth is often celebrated with parades, too), but the loud pops and bangs of fireworks can cause serious hearing damage.
When the delicate structures in your ear called hair cells — sensory cells located in your inner ears responsible for converting sound energy into electrical signals — are damaged, they never regenerate and cannot be repaired. This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The loss is permanent and may cause impaired hearing or total loss of hearing down the road.
NIHL can be cause by one exposure to a loud noise such as an explosion, or by regular exposure over an extended period of time. If you continuously experience sounds over 85 decibels then a hearing aid may be in your future. Check out how some common sounds compare:
Rustling leaves: 10 dB
A whisper: 20 dB
Humming of a fridge: 40 dB
A conversation: 60 dB
Busy street traffic: 70 dB
Vacuum cleaner: 80 dB
Lawn mower: 90 dB
A large orchestra: 98 dB
To see how fireworks compare
Fireworks for spectators 800 feet away: 88 to 126 dB
Fireworks for spectators 10 feet away: 155 dB
Front row of a rock concert: 110 dB
Military jet takeoff: 140 dB
Motorcycles, firecrackers, small firearms: 120 to 150 dB
So when it comes to ears safety, watching a public display from afar is your best bet. If you're serious about preventing ear damage, pick up some foam or silicone ear plugs. They sell them at most drug stores for less than $5. I know they're not exactly the most fashionable thing to sport, but I'd rather wear these for 20 minutes than lose my sense of hearing forever.