Fireworks and Hearing Loss

Independence Day is right around the corner, and with that comes hot dogs, parades, and of course, fireworks. While a fireworks display is a beautiful thing to witness, they may be less than spectacular for your ears. This Fourth of July, keep in mind the potential damage that can be caused by a loud fireworks show.

In 2020, cancellations of many annual fireworks shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to more consumers purchasing fireworks themselves. In fact, consumer fireworks sales went up from 248.9 million lbs in 2019 to 385.8 million lbs in 2020. In turn, this led to more explosive-related injuries than usual.

But what's often not talked about is the effect fireworks have on hearing. In fact, a single loud blast greater than 140 decibels (dB) can impact hearing right away and lead to permanent loss. At just three feet away, an exploding firecracker can reach 150-175 dB. A safe hearing level is 80 dB or less. These explosive blasts created by fireworks can damage the cilia (delicate hair cells) in our inner ear and cause immediate hearing loss.

Independence Day fireworks shows are usually a family affair. It's important to know that while 140 dB or more can lead to hearing loss in adults, it only takes 120 dB to lead to hearing loss in children. Infants should not be exposed at all.

Hearing loss induced by noise is completely preventable, but once damage occurs, it is irreversable. That's why taking steps to protect your hearing, especially around the Fourth of July, can save you the pain and struggle that comes with hearing loss.

Here are a few ways to protect your hearing this holiday weekend:

  1. Use hearing protection. Whether you are launching your own fireworks or attending a public show, bringing along hearing protection is the smartest and simplest way to ensure you don't suffer any hearing damage.
  2. Keep a safe distance away. It's easier to keep some distance between you and the explosions at a public show. But if you're setting off your own firecrackers, be vigilant and use hearing protection if you cannot be more than 500 feet away from the launch site.
  3. Buy lower noise level fireworks. All fireworks you can purchase come with a noise level rating. Look for the ones with the lowest rating. Louder does not mean better. You can still have a gorgeous show without the risk of hearing loss. 
  4. Check in with your ears. If you start to feel any pain, discomfort, or ringing in your ears, it's time to stop. Leave the noisy area right away.

If you think you have hearing loss after a fireworks show, reach out to a hearing healthcare professional for help. Westone offers a wide selection of hearing protection devices that offer the most comfort and greatest protection, like our custom-fit Style No. 40 DefendEar earpieces and our universal-fit E-A-R foam earplugs. We even offer our EM's 4 Kids earmuffs for the little ones. With proper hearing protection, you can enjoy fireworks shows for years to come.