Station InitiativesWellness Wednesday


Protecting your hearing from fireworks

Posted at 4:25 PM, Jul 03, 2024

There’s something we could learn from the way our pets experience Independence Day. It turns out, they are right to be scared of loud noises.

Fireworks can be fun, but they can also be dangerous to our hearing.

Omar Juarez is a clinical audiologist at Intermountain Health. He’s worried about our ears because we may not be worried enough.

“You do so many noisy things, mowing your lawn using a chainsaw, hammering something, there's always noise that is going to affect your hearing,” said Juarez.

The range of potential harmful noises may surprise you.

“Vacuuming your house could be about 75 to 80 decibels and that's about the point when your hearing can be hurt is around 80 to 85 decibels,” he said.

That level of noise might start harming our hearing over an extended period. But duration matters less as noises get louder. So how loud is too loud?

Above the vacuum, a gas-powered lawn mower might reach 100 decibels.

An ambulance siren or a rock concert might get to 130.

And a jet plane taking off is about 140.

But the booms of fireworks?

“I would venture a guess that those get to about 180 decibels, which is really loud, and if you're real close to the site, especially children, ears are going to be more sensitive to that,” said Juarez.

That’s unsafe for any duration. And ears are pretty delicate. Our hearing is not something that bounces back like a lot of things.

Juarez explained that our ears, "Are not as resilient. So usually, noise induced hearing loss is a permanent thing. It usually doesn’t bounce back after it’s been damaged."

So you still want a firework show in your driveway, or you want to go to a big public firework display. Ear protection is easy to find and afford – around $10 or less. And you can find them at just about any big box store.

Earmuffs are best for little kids who are harder to fit with ear plugs. But foam ear plugs that mold into your ears may be the best option for older kids and adults...if you wear them right.

They key, according to Juarez, is to roll the foam so that it looks like a golf tee, then insert into your ears so it can’t be seen by someone facing you.