Fireworks too close could be the last ones you hear

July 4th fireworks show lights up the sky over Charlottesville's McIntire Park.
July 4th fireworks show lights up the sky over Charlottesville's McIntire Park.(Source: WVIR)
Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 9:24 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - We may not have a big fireworks celebration for the Fourth of July this year, but we're still going to see fireworks in the sky from people who buy them and entertain friends on their own.

Even though we know accidents can happen, Leigh Ann Reel, Ph.D., says one common injury from fireworks can result in permanent damage that is not so obvious to everyone else. As Associate professor of Audiology in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, she says, “In more extreme cases, you can have sudden, permanent very noticeable hearing loss from exposure to one single sound, especially gun shots and even fireworks at close range. Fireworks can reach levels of 140 to 160 decibels. That is louder than a jet engine, high enough to have immediate damage.”

Dr. Reel says a general rule is if you’re in a noisy enough place that you have to yell to talk to someone within an arm’s length away, the noise is loud enough that you could be accumulating long term damage to your hearing. She says, “For the most part, hearing damage tends to come over time in small gradual steps.” However, she says fireworks at close range can still take a toll. She sites one case in which a patient was holding fireworks in one hand. She says the blast left immediate and severe hearing loss at certain pitches. She explains, “Other than low pitch sounds, everything else was gone just from that one instance with the fireworks. So, whether you’re the one holding it or it goes off in close range, there’s certainly a possibility of having that kind of immediate severe to profound hearing loss.”

In this interview , Dr. Reel also answers questions about the effectiveness of ear plugs, ear muffs and even new apps available that can alert you about noise levels.

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