When you think of Independence Day, the first thing that comes to mind is probably fireworks. After spending the day swimming, playing and barbecuing, many of those in the United States will soon be heading out to ooh and aah over a display of colorful and exciting pyrotechnics. But whether you are watching a professional fireworks show or have purchased your own fireworks, hearing loss is a real risk.
Why are the fireworks so loud in the first place? It all comes down to the chemical reaction that happens after the fuse is lit. The burning gunpowder releases hot gas that expands rapidly; when the gas expands to the point that it runs out of room within the firework, the resulting explosion causes a blast wave. The vibrations from that blast wave have the potential to cause permanent damage to the delicate hair cells of the inner ear.
Yes, fireworks are exciting, but the problem is the excitement is often measured by the “loudness factor." For some people, the louder the better. And those loud explosions have the potential to reach levels between 150 and 175 decibels. When it comes to fireworks, the World Health Organization recommends the maximum safe decibel level for adults is 140 decibels, and for children only 120 decibels. Infants should not be exposed to fireworks at all; an infant’s ear canal is much smaller than an older child's or an adult's, so the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. What might not sound that loud to an adult actually sounds up to 20 decibels louder to an infant.
The bottom line is that that hearing loss can occur from exposure to any sound over 85 decibels, so it makes sense to take steps to protect your hearing this Fourth of July.
One way is to maintain a safe distance from the fireworks display. The farther you are from the sound, the less harmful the sound is to your ears, so your distance from the sound of the fireworks can make all of the difference in terms of decibel level and hearing safety. A distance of around 500 feet will still give you a great view of the fireworks, but without the sound pressure that can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
Where you view your fireworks can also affect your hearing. Experts recommend attending a community fireworks display rather than setting off your own fireworks at home. Not only are fireworks dangerous and best left to trained professionals, but there is usually a roped off area located a safe viewing (and listening) distance away from the fireworks show.
If you intend to sit as close to the action as possible, or if you are determined to create your own fireworks display, protect your hearing and that of your children. Inexpensive foam earplugs can be found in drugstores and pharmacies, and work well for adults; earmuffs (basically foam-filled cups that cover the ears) are better for small children because earplugs sometimes don’t fit and can be a choking hazard.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, more than 200 million pounds of fireworks were purchased for personal use in 2014; double the amount in 2000. If you are planning your own fireworks display, the good news is you can customize your selection for reduced noise. All fireworks come with a noise rating, so selecting quieter fireworks will not only preserve a good relationship with your neighbors, it will protect your hearing as well. Quieter fireworks include fountains, wheels, falling leaves and comets. While not completely silent, they crackle and whistle instead of creating a loud, explosive boom. All are created for spectacular visual display but less noise. If you buy fireworks, your fireworks provider should be able to direct you to those that are lower on the noise rating scale.
What to avoid? Rockets, mines and any fireworks that have many blasts strung together tightly. These fireworks are created to make as much noise as possible.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 30 million people in the U.S. are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to noises such as loud fireworks can result in:
If you think you have noise-induced hearing loss after attending a fireworks display, be sure to see a hearing care professional. And don’t worry; you can still be patriotic this Fourth of July while protecting your hearing from the eardrum-shattering booms. Protecting your hearing now will enable you to enjoy the sounds of the fireworks for years to come.
Contributed by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
June 28, 2016
By Sarah Bricker on Jul 1, 2015
Summertime is upon us and that means sunny days, warm weather and lots of time spent outside! But for those with hearing aids, summer can present some problems.
Hearing aids can be damaged when exposed to heat or moisture. Sweat and water are the two biggest enemies of hearing aids during the summer, and sharp temperature changes can cause condensation and an increased propensity to sweat. All of these are damaging to your hearing aids and may prevent them from working properly.
Damage could result in distorted or weak sound quality, reduced battery life and inconsistent functionality.
1. Take out your hearing aids when exercising outside, if it is raining or if the weather is extremely warm.
2. At night, open the battery door to allow dry, fresh air to move through the hearing aid and relieve moisture.
3. Keep you hearing aids in a protective case and out of direct sunlight when you are not wearing them.
4. Avoid storing hearing aids in humid places such as in glove boxes, dashboards, or other environments where heat and moisture can build up.
5. Remove your hearing aids before showering, swimming or any activity in which you will or could be exposed to water.
6. Sunscreen has oils that can damage hearing aids, so apply lotions or sprays completely before putting on your hearing aids. Be sure that the sunscreen is fully rubbed in or dry before putting your hearing aids back on or the oils will seep into open seams and microphone ports or vents.
Summer should be fun not stressful. Follow our tips above for a worry-free summer that’s full of sounds and sunshine. Have questions about how to care for your hearing aids? Call us at (651) 528-7868.
There’s a noise in your ears that no one else can hear – a buzzing, ringing or whooshing sound that won’t go away — and it is driving you crazy. Is it a disease you wonder? Or a symptom of something serious? And – will it ever go away?
Most of us have experienced this condition, especially after a night enjoying the music of a favorite band or an afternoon cheering for the home team at the local stadium. If the ringing and buzzing doesn’t go away after a few hours however, it’s time for a trip to your hearing healthcare professional. Their examination can help reveal whether or not you have a condition known as tinnitus and whether it’s a symptom of another medical issue or is so chronic it classifies as a disease all by itself.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus) is the sensation of a ringing or buzzing in the ears even when there is no external sound present. You might hear the noise sporadically or constantly, and it may be loud or barely noticeable. Sometimes it’s worse — especially when there isn’t any background noise, such as when you are trying to fall asleep in a quiet room.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), more than 50 million people suffer from some form of tinnitus. While most people consider it a minor annoyance, more than 12 million with severe cases find it disruptive to their personal and professional relationships. Many of these individuals with chronic cases of tinnitus are veterans. In fact, tinnitus is the single largest category for disability claims in the military. Hearing loss is the second.
Tinnitus as a symptom
Most hearing health professionals believe tinnitus is a symptom of another condition or illness, such as:
Tinnitus as a disease
In other cases, tinnitus is so chronic and debilitating it can cause other health problems including stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and even thoughts of suicide. While it isn’t curable, it can be managed, even in these extreme situations.
Dr. James Henry, a research scientist at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the VA Medical Center in Portland, Ore. has developed five progressive treatment protocols to help veterans with chronic cases of tinnitus manage their condition. In a 2013 post published by Psychology Today, Dr. Henry describes his five-step Progressive Tinnitus Management Program. While levels one and two deal with getting patients to hearing healthcare providers and treating any detected hearing loss, level three focuses on showing patients how to use sound, relaxation exercises and diversion activities to manage their tinnitus. Dr. Henry said 95 percent of those attending the level three workshops succeed in managing their tinnitus.
Additionally, several hearing aid manufacturers, such as Oticon, have developed hearing solutions with tinnitus relief features to be used in tandem with tinnitus management programs.
Whether you suspect your tinnitus is a symptom of a larger issue or something isolated, it needs to be evaluated by a hearing care professional and other medical professionals to determine if there is something causing it and how to best treat it. The first step is to seek treatment from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician or hearing healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. In the meantime, avoid substances such as alcohol, smoking and drinking caffeinated beverages, which can exacerbate your condition. Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Finally, it’s also important to maintain a positive outlook and find a support group with people who understand what you are dealing with.
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
June 1, 2017