The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging people to use earplugs when celebrating the 4th of July, America’s noisiest day of the year, warning that the single bang of a firecracker at close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant.

BHI also is encouraging people to protect their hearing when participating in other loud, summertime activities, including concerts, stock car races, the use of lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice, power boating, and listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with earbuds and headphones.

"Excessive noise exposure is a serious issue,” says Sergei Kochkin, BHI executive director. “But noise-induced hearing loss also is highly preventable. When it comes to fireworks, the best advice I can offer is to leave them to the professionals. Sit at a comfortable distance from the display, where you can enjoy the colors and lights, but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises. To protect your hearing, make sure that you’re wearing earplugs and that they’re securely in place before the show begins. And be sure to keep them in for the entire show."

Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snugly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB, presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If a person has to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are other warning signs:

  • Pain in the ears after leaving a noisy area.
  • Hearing ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in the ears immediately after exposure to noise.
  • Suddenly having difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise

BHI offers an interactive hearing loss screening test at

SOURCE: Better Hearing Institute