There’s nothing that says the 4th of July more than fireworks, whether that be in the backyard or the big show in town. And unfortunately, other than barbecue, the other most common thing that says “Independence Day” is fireworks-related injuries — including to the ears of young and old alike.
Exposure to extremely loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. This is especially critical for children, whose narrower ear canals actually amplify the damage done by high-decibel incidents (due to the higher pressure created in the smaller area of their ears). This means an infant can experience a noise as up to 20 decibels greater than the adult holding them.
When ignited, the chemicals used to make fireworks unleash shockwaves. The name says it all. When a person is too close to the 150- to 175-decibel explosions that fireworks create the ear can be shocked — its natural defenses overwhelmed — and permanent damage done.
Distance is your friend. The shockwave weakens as it travels. Professionals understand this, which is one reason why they set fireworks off well away from bystanders.
Professionals also wear earmuffs, since they know the risks of exposure. If backyard fireworks are part of your Independence Day plans, consider investing in some ear protection for anyone who’s going to be in close proximity when they go off. And if you’re taking an infant or young child to the local fireworks display — even if viewing from a distance — consider doing the same.