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Fireworks and Your Delicate Ears

I'm ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, but must admit I am not a fan of the noise that accompanies fireworks — lovely as they may be. Those booming sounds can really damage the delicate structures in your ears; once they're damaged, they never regenerate and can't 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 caused 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 (dB) 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 measure up


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 ear safety, it's best to enjoy a fireworks display from far away. If you're serious about preventing ear damage, pick up some foam or silicone earplugs. They sell them at most drug stores for less than $5. I know they're not exactly the most fashionable things to sport, but I'd rather wear these for 20 minutes than hearing aids for the rest of my life.

Join The Conversation
kscincotta kscincotta 8 years
While I understand the cause for concern, I find it interesting that we get so concerned about being around fireworks for twenty minutes a few times a year, but don't even think about ear protection while mowing the lawn twice a week or vacuuming every few days for years on end. Something to think about for sure.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Yeah, my dog really hates fireworks too. She freaks out and wants to hide in the basement until the noise stops. I have to be careful though, because if she gets too scared, she tries to escape from the house and she bolts and we have to go find her and bring her home. I don't usually watch the fireworks from the lake; I watch them from my house because it's only a few blocks away. I have, however, been to rock concerts and I definitely think those amps are louder than 110 dB. They're almost deafening, especially if you end up with a spot right by the stage.
Happsmjc Happsmjc 8 years
no wonder my poor dog hasn't been able to sleep for the past four nights :( i can't imagine how much worse it is for their ears!!
le-romantique le-romantique 8 years
I'm an audio engineer, and I can safely say that front row at a rock concert has to be louder than 110dB... they are WAY too loud... its just ridiculous. I have earplugs in all materials and colors, but its always recommended for musicians or anyone in the crew to have professional, customized, earplugs which can run you anywhere from $150 to probably $1,000.... People don't realize how important your hearing is, how delicate it is, and how you cannot repair the damage (yet, I hear that over seas somewhere doctors are trying to figure out how to move the cilia that is bent/broken back to repair tinnitus and other hearing problems....) I was so close to becoming an audiologist instead of an engineer, because the ear is such an interesting/fascinating thing, but I love the entertainment industry too much.
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