Protect Your Hearing From Fireworks


A silhouette of two people watching fireworks at night

In Texas, it is traditional to celebrate holidays such as the Fourth of July and New Year’s with fireworks. It is illegal to shoot them off within the Laredo city limits, but they can be used elsewhere within Webb County. However, it is important not only to be in compliance with the law when shooting off fireworks but to observe the necessary safety measures. This includes firework ear protection to preserve your hearing.

What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

The inner ear is composed of two parts: the cochlea for hearing and the vestibular system for balance.There are tiny hairs that line the inner ear. Each of these hairs connects to a nerve ending, and the vibrations of the hairs transmit signals to the brain that it interprets as sound. Exposure to loud noises can damage the stereocilia, which do not grow back. Sometimes the damage happens gradually over time, but it can also occur due to a single exposure to a loud sound.

One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noises. Sometimes the loss is temporary, lasting up to 24 hours. Repeated exposure over time can cause damage that leads to permanent hearing loss. Rarely, exposure to loud noises may cause perforation, or tearing, of the eardrum.

Other symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss include the following:

  • Tinnitus: More commonly known as ringing in the ears, this is believed to be caused by confused signals from damaged stereocilia cells.
  • Diplacusis: Rarely, you may perceive the same sound having two different pitches, a phenomenon known as “double-hearing.”
  • Difficulty Hearing Speech: It may seem that people are mumbling when they speak to you. You may have particular difficulty perceiving higher-pitched sounds and voices.
  • Difficulty Distinguishing Sounds: Spoken words with “f,” “s,” “th,” and “sh” sounds may be more difficult to distinguish from one another.
  • Loud Speech: When you have difficulty hearing, you may start speaking more loudly than you did before. You may not notice this yourself, but other people may comment on it.

While hearing loss may affect either one ear or the other ear, noise-induced hearing loss is more likely to affect both ears equally. Firework ear protection allows you to have fun over the holidays while preserving your hearing, now and for years to come.

What Steps Can You Take To Protect Your Hearing From the Fireworks?

There are several steps you can take to avoid damaging exposure to the noise from the explosions when you are watching fireworks with your family.

Skip the Home Displays

Rather than setting off your own fireworks at home, attend a community display put on by trained professionals. There is usually a viewing area designated a safe distance from the display so you can enjoy it without the risk of injury to your ears or damage to your hearing. Amateur fireworks displays set off at home not only risk damaging your hearing but pose other potential dangers of fires and burn injuries. A professional display is much more magnificent and you can just relax and watch it without worry.

Keep a Safe Distance

If you must set off your own fireworks, be sure that everyone in the family maintains a safe distance from the source to prevent hearing injuries as well as other accidents. Because children have more sensitive ears than adults, they should maintain a distance of at least 165 feet to 200 feet from the source of the sound. Adults should stay 50 to 60 feet away. The further away you are from the source of the sound, the safer it is for your hearing.

Limit the Time of Exposure

The longer you are exposed to loud noises, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing. Only up to 15 minutes of exposure is recommended for a sound that is 115 decibels or higher. The sound of fireworks exploding ranges between 140 and 160 decibels, so an even shorter exposure may be necessary for firework ear protection in Texas.

Wear Hearing Protection

Hearing protection helps to block some of the sound waves from reaching the ears. With adequate firework ear protection, you may not have to limit the time of exposure to the recommended 15 minutes without hearing protection, though you should still keep a suitable distance and observe other safety measures and not prolong the exposure to an excessive length of time.

What Type of Hearing Protection Is Recommended for Fireworks?

If you set off fireworks frequently, are often exposed to other loud noises, or are concerned about hearing aid protection due to a pre-existing condition, you may benefit from custom earpieces for hearing protection. These are specially molded to your ear to protect against loud noises from fireworks, engines, gunshots, equipment such as pneumatic drills and chain saws, and concerts.

If you are only in need of occasional ear protection for fireworks and other exposure, there are off the shelf hearing protectors available that should adequately meet your needs. These are available at sporting goods stores or drugstores and include options such as headphones that fit over your ears and earplugs that fit inside the canal. The latter is made out of foam that you roll between your fingers so they are small enough to insert into your ear canal. They then expand to fit the space and block some of the sound waves. If you are setting off your own fireworks, you may want to double up on hearing protection by combining both earplugs and headphones.

Foam earplugs are more discreet than headphones but are not as effective, and some people find them less comfortable to wear. As an adult, the type of hearing protection you choose depends on your personal preference. However, if you are choosing hearing protection for your children, over-the-ear protection is a better choice. You do not necessarily need custom hearing protection for children; ordinary earmuffs should do the job as long as you take the other necessary precautions, including keeping a safe distance and limiting exposure time.

Talk to Oliveira Audiology & Hearing Center

We provide services such as custom hearing protection, hearing evaluations, and hearing aids to patients in Laredo. Contact us for more information or to make an appointment.

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