July 4th Hearing Protection: ASHA Urges the Public to Take Simple Steps to Avoid Permanent Damage From Fireworks, Firecrackers

June 28, 2022

(Rockville, MD) With the Independence Day holiday weekend fast approaching, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is encouraging the public to make hearing protection part of their celebrations this year—whether they’re celebrating at home or at a public fireworks display.

“The Fourth of July, perhaps more than any other holiday, is associated with loud noise,” said Janice R. Trent, AuD, CCC-A, Vice President for Audiology Practice for ASHA’s Board of Directors. “Some people may opt for quieter celebrations—but for those that don’t, we encourage them to use basic hearing protection in the form of earplugs. They’re inexpensive, and easy to find and use—and they do a great job at keeping our ears safe. For young children, we recommend well-fitting earmuffs—also available in stores and online.”

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is completely preventable. However, once it occurs, it is irreversible. Exposure to noisy leisure activities is among the chief culprits of NIHL in young adults, according to the World Health Organization—which states that 1.1 billion people ages 12–35 worldwide are at risk. Hearing damage from noise exposure can occur at any age.

A single loud blast or explosion that lasts less than 1 second can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss. This noise, called impulse noise or impact noise, can come from fireworks. Impulse noise is measured in decibel peak pressure, or dBP. Impulse noise greater than 140 dBP will instantly hurt a person’s hearing. Fireworks at 3 feet, as well as firecrackers, can measure 150 dBP. This is considered painful to the ears—and it is well beyond a safe listening level (75–80 decibels).

Hearing Protection Advice

By taking some simple precautionary steps, people can protect themselves and their families. ASHA advises the following:

  1. Use hearing protection. Basic earplugs offer good protection for most teens and adults. Children are generally better off wearing well-fitting earmuffs instead of earplugs.
  2. Keep a safe distance. Stand at least 500 feet away from noise sources, such as a fireworks launch site. The closer you are, the more likely you are to hurt your ears.
  3. Know your limits. If you are experiencing ringing in your ears or any other ear discomfort, leave the noisy situation. Listen to your body!

Following loud events like July 4th fireworks—for anyone experiencing pain, ringing in the ears, or difficulty hearing—ASHA recommends contacting a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation. Learn more, and find an audiologist in your area, at www.asha.org/public.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 223,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

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