Protect your hearing when celebrating with fireworks
For many Kentuckians, watching brightly colored fireworks is a traditional part of their Fourth of July celebration. But the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH) want Kentuckians to know that while fireworks are pretty they’re also loud and can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
“Most people are aware that fireworks can injure your eyes and hands or cause burns but many people do not know that a firecracker is in the upper range of noise that is considered hazardous to your hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss can happen from exposure to one loud noise or from repeated exposure to less intense noise over a period of time and the damage can be permanent,” said KCDHH Commissioner Susan Brown, an audiologist at Murray State University. Brown is one of 14 commissioners from across Kentucky.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), noise at 85 decibels (dB) or above can cause damage to hearing; fireworks can reach up to 140 dB. A decibel is a unit that measures the intensity of sound on a scale from zero to 140. A normal conversation is about 60 while a gunshot or jet engine taking off is about 140 dB.
Of the 28 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss, about one-third can attribute their hearing loss, at least in part, to noise, according to NIDCD. In addition to fireworks, Brown warns Kentuckians to be aware of other noise hazards that people may not realize can damage hearing such as loud music, lawn mowers, chainsaws, concerts, gunshots, motorcycles and sirens. Noise exposure also can cause a ringing, roaring or buzzing sound in your ears or head called tinnitus.
According to NIDCD, you have probably been exposed to hazardous noise if someone who is arm’s length away has to raise his voice for you to understand, your ears are ringing or sounds seem dull or flat after leaving a noisy place.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is totally preventable if people become aware of the danger and take steps to protect their hearing,” said Brown. “You can learn about noise levels, wear protective devices such as earplugs or earmuffs, avoid noisy environments, limit the time of exposure and educate other people about the hazards. In the case of fireworks, the safest way to celebrate is to leave fireworks to trained professionals.”
According to NIDCD, more than 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis at home, work or during recreational activities. It’s also important for parents to protect their children’s hearing from hazardous noise, Brown said.
More than 400,000 Kentuckians are deaf or hard of hearing, but many of those with mild hearing loss often go undiagnosed. Brown recommends that Kentuckians have regular hearing tests to detect gradual hearing loss or if they experience any changes in their hearing because treatment, services and assistive listening devices are available.
“There is an array of state and national resources that are available to people with hearing loss. The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can help as an information, referral and advocacy agency,” said Brown.
KCDHH has a resource library in Frankfort that can be accessed in person or through the mail for people who do not live near Frankfort. Books and videotapes on topics ranging from coping with a hearing loss to assistive devices, legal rights and parenting a child with a hearing loss are available through the library. KCDHH also distributes free specialized telephone equipment to any Kentucky resident who has a hearing loss or speech impairment that affects his ability to effectively communicate using a regular telephone.
For more information about KCDHH services, contact the commission toll-free at 1-800-372-2907 (V/T) or 502-573-2604 (V/T) or online at www.kcdhh.ky.gov. The commission and the resource library are located at 632 Versailles Road in Frankfort.
KCDHH is an agency of the Kentucky Education Cabinet. The Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or call 502-564-6606.