Guarding yourself against temporary hearing loss from fireworks

It’s that time of the year again. The weather is turning colder, nights are drawing in and you’ve probably already seen fireworks for sale in the shops. Perhaps you’re planning your own show in the garden or to go to a professional display, be it Diwali fireworks or Bonfire Night. But when you’re ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the pretty lights in the sky, have you stopped to think about what the loud bangs and whistles are doing to your hearing?

 

Fireworks and the risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

The whizz-bang and crackle of a firework might be exciting, but those explosions can reach levels of 140-175 decibels (dB). That’s way over 85dB, which is the level that noise becomes dangerous to your hearing. Even short exposure to sounds as loud as fireworks can cause tinnitus and hearing loss, and while it may only be temporary, there is the potential for permanent damage to your hearing.

Why are fireworks so loud?

Fireworks are made using gunpowder, so it’s no wonder the bang of a firework going off can be as loud as a gunshot. Once the fuse is lit, a chemical reaction takes place and the burning gunpowder releases hot gas. The gas expands at a phenomenal rate, and once it runs out of space in the firework it explodes, causing a blast wave. It is this blast wave that propels the firework into the sky and can damage the tiny hair cells of your inner ear.

How to protect your ears and enjoy fireworks

The maximum safe level of noise for adults is 140dB, and for children, it’s only 120dB. So those fireworks releasing up to 175dB are definitely above the safe zone when it comes to your hearing. So, if you’re planning to watch Bonfire Night or Diwali fireworks, the sensible option is to protect your ears and especially your children’s ears.

Earplugs or ear defenders are a great way to protect your ears. Even earmuffs to keep your ears warm while you’re standing in the cold will help. Earplugs, which can be bought in pharmacies and DIY shops, are a good answer for adults, but earmuffs are usually easier for children as earplugs may not fit their small ears.

Our next piece of advice is to keep a safe distance away from the fireworks. Not only are you less at risk being injured by a stray rocket, but you’ll be further away from the blast. We advise attending a community event rather than letting off fireworks in your back garden, as the organisers will have set a cordon at a safe distance for you to stand. Avoid taking small infants to firework displays, as their ears are very sensitive and easily damaged.

What to do if you suspect temporary hearing loss

If you or a family member has ventured too close to the explosions and are suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss, we recommend making an appointment with our audiologist. If you come in for a simple hearing test in London at our hearing clinic, our audiologist will be able to check your ears and hearing for your peace of mind.