By Kelly N. Barahona
In most cities if not towns of a certain size in the U.S., a grand display of fireworks for the Fourth of July is part of the celebration of America’s birthday. But just how loud are the fireworks people have come to expect every summer? Unfortunately fireworks can measure from 140 to as high as 165 decibels, easily a hearing-damaging event if you are sitting too close.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festivities. With the abundance of decibel-reading apps for smartphones it’s easier than ever before to learn how much noise is in the world around us. Most apps use the smartphone’s microphone to give a reading of the decibel level. As with a professional-grade meter, most apps can also show how the noise fluctuates over time, in real time, and provide numerical reference points that users can compare to their own sound levels. Some apps even let you geo-tag the decibel level to a specific location, like your local coffee shop or favorite restaurant.
Parents, camp counselors, and teachers can turn the Fourth of July into a science lesson. On the night of the fireworks show, Hearing Health Foundation recommends staying at least one block away from where the fireworks are being displayed and using a smartphone app to measure the decibel level.
If you want to be closer to the action, protect your hearing by using foam earplugs or over-the-ear earmuffs for the youngest children. A fun but loud activity like this can be a good segue for conversations about how listening to music at too loud a volume and participating in noisy recreational activities may be harmful, as well as how to incorporate better hearing health practices in your daily life.
Fourth of July should be a time of fun and enjoyment, but as with anything, it is necessary to take precautions to make the holiday safe as well. Teach your loved ones about the noises and sounds around them to hopefully encourage everyone to take active measures to protect their hearing on a regular basis. Remember, noise is the most preventable cause of hearing loss.