How to protect your hearing during July 4 celebrations

WASHINGTON — Looking forward to Fourth of July fireworks? Whether it’s a professional display or firecrackers in someone’s backyard, experts want you to protect your hearing and wear ear plugs.

“Audiologists go around with plugs in our ears for firecrackers — we’re always trying to be proactive,” said Jackie Clark, president of the American Academy of Audiology.

Fireworks can explode with noise of up to 155 decibels and a burst of 120 decibels can immediately damage hearing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The louder the noise is, the briefer the exposure needs to be to cause damage: 85 decibels can cause damage if exposure lasts eight hours or more.

Some people are genetically predisposed to loud noises, causing hearing damage, Clark said.

“No one really knows if you’re one of those lucky people. It’s like winning the lotto.”

For easy reference, Clark said if you’re around something as loud as a running lawn mower, or if the environment is too loud to have a normal conversation, then it’s time to put in ear plugs.

“Just like sun — if you’re going out in the sun, you want to take some precautions and we now have SPF in all our lotions,” Clark said of what’s now a universally-recognized issue.

Hearing loss is such a growing problem in the U.S. and internationally, Clark is in Geneva this week for related conferences with the World Health Organization.

“The most important part is raising awareness among ministers of health and health professionals that don’t really specialize in ear and hearing problems,” Clark said.

If your ears are ringing after being someplace loud, Clark recommends getting your hearing checked, as well as routinely, once or twice a year.

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