Protect your ears from a burst of fireworks

Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 11:14 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - We know fireworks accidents can trigger serious injuries and burns. But one thing most people don’t think about is the noise that comes with fireworks and what that can do.

Leigh Ann Reel, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Speech, Language and Hearing Research at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

She says sounds that reach 140 decibels can produce immediate damage to the ears.

Coincidentally, fireworks can reach levels from 140 to 160 decibels. She says, “It does depend on the type of firework, and a big factor is how close you are to the fireworks. But if we’re talking 140 to 160 decibels, that is very, very loud, to kind of give you a frame of reference. That’s louder than a jet engine.”

Dr. Leigh Ann Reel says the good news is noise induced hearing loss is preventable simply by keeping a good distance away from loud noise exposure.

The bad news, she says, is “Once you have noise-induced hearing loss, it is permanent. And there’s nothing we can do to reverse it. There’s not a medication yet there’s not a surgery.”

She explains that when loud noises come into the ear, sensitive ears can develop some swelling in the inner ear. If that noise is repeated, that can lead to bigger problems.

If you’re going to a party where people might be shooting off fireworks, Leigh Ann says be prepared and take ear plugs, especially for small children. Ironically, she says studies are showing that an estimated 2 percent of kids today already have some permanent noise induced hearing loss.