Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's
Summertime with little ones can be full of magical moments, including warm pool days, summer camps and Fourth of July fireworks.
Fireworks are beautiful, but did you know they can be harmful to your little one’s ears? Learn what you can do to protect your child’s hearing this Fourth of July.
What determines if noise is too loud?
Without protection, noise levels at 85 decibels (dB) or above can harm a child’s hearing. Fireworks can exceed 150 decibels. That’s louder than a jet plane!
Several factors play a role in whether a loud sound will damage hearing, including:
- Distance – The closer you are to a sound, the louder the sound will be at your eardrums – and the more harmful it can be to your hearing.
- Duration of exposure – Most people know that repeated exposure to high levels of noise over time can cause hearing damage. But so can exposure to impulse noise, which is a sound of short duration (usually less than one second) that occurs suddenly and ends quickly – such as a firework explosion. Impulse noise can cause immediate hearing damage. A general rule is that the louder the sound, the less time it is recommended to be in that environment.
- Age – Because babies have smaller ear canals than adults, sound pressure level can be greater as it enters their tiny ears. It is especially important to be aware of the sound levels reaching your baby’s ears.
Three tips to protect your child’s hearing
- Skip the home firework display! This Fourth of July, consider attending a community event where you and your family can keep a safe distance from noisy fireworks.
- Use hearing protection. Be sure to lead by example. Everyone, including parents, can benefit from hearing protection. (We’d love to see your family photos of your #hearingprotection at @phxchildrens on Instagram!)
- Educate your children. Research has shown that only 16 percent of children report consistent use of hearing protection when exposed to loud noise (Bhatt et al., 2020). By talking to your children about the risk of noise exposure, you help them take an important step toward a lifetime of healthy hearing.
What type of hearing protection should my child use?
There are two main types of hearing protection devices: earmuffs and ear plugs. Although both can reduce sound levels reaching the ear, we recommend earmuffs for babies. Many earmuffs are specifically designed for children under the age of 2 years.
Child-sized ear plugs are designed for children’s ears, but some may still be too large for small children. Never trim them down, as this will impact the fit – and effectiveness – of the device. Stick with earmuffs until your child can wear earplugs properly.
Be sure to check the noise reduction rating (NRR) on your hearing protection before you buy it. The higher the NRR number, the greater the protection. Follow the user instructions to ensure proper placement of your hearing protection devices.
Phoenix Children’s Audiology Program offers hearing evaluations and treatments for children of all ages. As one of the premier pediatric audiology centers in the Southwest, we provide excellent pediatric hearing care across the Valley with services at Phoenix Children’s Thomas Campus and our East Valley location. We look forward to meeting you and your family!
Bhatt, J.M., Lin, H.W. and Bhattacharyya, N. (2020), Epidemiology and gender differences in pediatric recreational and firearms noise exposure in the USA. The Laryngoscope, 130: 541-545. https://doi.org/10.1002/lary.27958