700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Red, White and BOOM: How Fireworks Affect Hearing

Jul 02, 2013

For most Americans, Independence Day includes many of the same traditions: cookouts, family get-togethers, parades, and stories about how our freedom was won. Typically the day’s events end with fireworks. For many, a fireworks display allows us time to sit and watch in awe as we see colors light up the sky to the tunes of Francis Scott Key and John Phillip Sousa. However, if you have children, fireworks are surrounded by discussions of, “Should we take the kids this year?” and, “Do you think they’ll be scared?”  But how often do you wonder, “Will the loud sounds from the fireworks damage my child’s hearing”?

Damage to hearing can occur from sudden, loud sounds such as fireworks as well as repeated exposure to loud sounds over a period of time. 

The damage you experience from loud sounds is permanent, yet entirely preventable. In order to keep your ears and your children’s ears safe this Independence Day – there are a few things you should know.

A decibel (dB) is a way that sound is measured. The larger the decibel number – the louder the sound that is being measured. A whisper is measured around 15dB.  Normal conversation takes place around 45-55 dB. Sound begins to become dangerous around 85dB.  Fireworks create sound around the 150+ dB range. (Yikes! But before you cancel your trip to your local fireworks celebration, read on.)

  • The distance between you, your children and the fireworks is critical to keeping ears safe. The greater the distance between you and the set-off area, the safer your ears (and a whole lot of other body parts!) will be.
  • Invest in some good hearing protection for your family. Using hearing protection can also help answer your other concern with fireworks – if your child’s hearing is protected, your child will most likely be less frightened by the loud sounds.  There are different types of hearing protection you can use, from small foam earplugs to larger cushioned headphones that sit over the entire ear.  If you have questions about hearing protection or safety around loud noises, you can always contact the Audiology Department at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of a problem. If your child complains of a ringing or buzzing noise, experiences pain in the ears, is unable to hear you talking from less  than 3 feet away, or is having trouble understanding because words or sounds seem muffled, it’s time to check in with your doctor.
There are many safety concerns you must consider when having children around fireworks. If you follow all the do’s and don’ts AND consider safe sound as part of the list – you will have a fun, SAFE Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Gina Hounam, PhD

Gina Hounam is a member of the audiology department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received a BA in speech and hearing science in 1998 from The Ohio State University, and then went to the University of Cincinnati for her MA and PhD in audiology.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.