Children love Bonfire Night, that goes without saying, and after the first loud burst of fireworks many will be out in full force for the November 5 celebrations.
But many parents do not realise that exposing a child to booming firecrackers and whistling Catherine wheels could be putting their hearing at risk of permanent damage, according to national charity Action on Hearing Loss.
Any sound over 85db is viewed as harmful to your hearing and a firework display averages around 120dB, which is the equivalent of a jet taking off.
But there is no reason to stop them from enjoying the spectacle, so the charity has offered some top tips to protect your children from the cacophony of the festivities.
Tips to protect your child’s hearing
When attending the celebrations, wear noise-reducing ear defenders.
Keep a good distance from all sources of loud noise - such as fireworks or speaker systems.
Audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss, Vaitheki Maheswaran, said: “Take steps to protect your hearing at loud events by wearing ear plugs!
“We also encourage protecting your children’s hearing as it’s difficult to say when a small child's hearing is at risk. Their tiny ears can be more sensitive than adult ears to certain high-pitched sounds. The best way to protect your child’s hearing is by using ear defenders that are specially designed for children.”
Exposure to loud sounds can cause noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus.
Tinnitus is often described as a ‘ringing in your ears’ but some people might also hear buzzing, whistling or whooshing. Although there is no cure for it, there is support available to help people manage it.
The ear defenders are available from Action on Hearing Loss at: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop/hearing-protection/
For information and support services available for tinnitus sufferers, call our helpline on 0808 808 9000 or visit https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-health/tinnitus/
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Simon Robb, telephone: 0203 227 6164 or email email@example.com
Notes to editors:
How is a gig loudness measured?
Loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). Experts agree that exposure to noise at or above 85 dB can damage hearing over time. An average nightclub has a noise level of over 100dB and the average for a gig is 110dB.
Sound intensity doubles with every 3dB. Sounds at 88dB are twice as intense as sounds at 85dB, although this won’t be obvious to the listener. That means that for every 3dB increase in volume, damage can occur in half the time.
Here’s a guide to typical noise levels measured in dB (the higher the number, the louder the noise):
60dB – ordinary spoken conversation
80dB – shouting – this is the danger level
100dB – cinema shows can top 100dB
110dB – a pneumatic drill nearby
130dB – an aeroplane taking off 100m away
What hearing problems can loud music cause?
Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise is often gradual and so the signs may not always be totally obvious to begin with. It’s quite common to experience your hearing sounding dull and you will also more than likely experience tinnitus after being exposed to loud noise. This can last a few days, but varies depending on the levels of noise you were exposed to and the duration you were exposed for. It’s a sign that you have put your ears under stress. This is called temporary threshold shift and if you keep putting your ear under stress like this it will become permanent and irreversible. Hearing loss impacts on communication, relationships, social life, work and education. It’s important to get your hearing checked if you are worried you aren’t hearing well or have tinnitus.
How many times, roughly, would a person need to attend a loud gig / festival for this damage to take place?
This depends on the levels of sounds and the duration you are exposed for. It is possible to permanently damage your hearing on a one off exposure if the levels of sound are very loud. If you take steps to protect yourself you will be reducing the levels of sound you are exposed to and you can enjoy the music for much longer throughout life.
What is the science behind hearing damage and loud music - i.e. what happens to the ears?
Noise can damage the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea. The loss of hearing is likely to become permanent if your exposure to noise is long or is repeated on a regular basis. This can be temporary where the hair cells are metabolically exhausted after exposure to noise and don’t function as well. The hearing will sound dull and it’s likely you will also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The hair cells may recover and therefore hearing return to normal levels after a few days, but if you keep exposing yourself to noise; the hair cells won’t recover and the damage will be irreversible. Hearing loss will be permanent.