by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist
A recent article is a good reminder that fireworks can damage hearing. Fireworks are loud explosive blasts of sound that can cause permanent hearing loss, tinnitus or ringing in the ears, and hyperacusis or painful decreased sound tolerance. Even temporary distortion, muffling, or tinnitus after fireworks is a sign of sound overexposure.
As an audiologist I’ve seen cases of tinnitus and hearing loss after fireworks exposure, including backyard and professional shows and from people thinking they are playing a prank or joke on a friend or family member.
What can you do?
In addition to watching well away from where the fireworks are being set off, use hearing protection. This could include earmuffs or earplugs if age 13 years and older. Foam or solid type earplugs will cut the most sound. Musician’s or high fidelity earplugs will cut sound, but still let you hear conversations. Sticking your finger in your ears when fireworks are going off also works as temporary hearing protection.
Some people believe it is no longer ethical to use loud fireworks given we know how harmful they are to the environment, pets, wildlife, people with PTSD, and others.
Recommended options include quiet fireworks, light shows, and drone shows. These require action plans. People planning celebrations that currently use loud fireworks should plan and budget for a fun alternative that doesn’t damage hearing.
Maybe next year…
Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.