Fairview: Protect your ears this Fourth of July

Audiologist Lynne Hawley is joining the Better Hearing Institute in urging people to use sound judgment and ear plugs in celebrating America’s noisiest day of the year — the Fourth of July.

“The single bang of a firecracker at close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant,” said Hawley, audiologist in the Specialty Clinic at Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming.

Hawley and BHI also are encouraging people to protect their hearing when participating in other loud, summertime activities, including concerts, stock car races, the use of lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice and power boating and when listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with earbuds and headphones.

Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise, and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day. Children are most vulnerable.

“Noise-induced hearing loss can be life-changing, but it also is highly preventable,” Hawley said. “That’s why this Fourth of July, we are raising awareness within the community of the risk that fireworks pose to hearing. We are encouraging people to both leave the fireworks to the professionals and use earplugs when attending fireworks celebrations.”

Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies and sporting goods stores. They’re practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

Hawley also reminds the community that regular hearing checks are critically important for detecting hearing loss early and for getting appropriate help to minimize the negative impact that unaddressed hearing loss can have on quality of life. BHI offers a free and confidential online hearing check (http://www.hearingcheck.org) where people can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing professional.

Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk of personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, reduced income and diminished psychological and overall health.

“Prevention is so critical to preserving our hearing, especially for children, who are at highest risk for noise-induced hearing loss,” noted Sergei Kochkin, BHI’s executive director. “So make sure your family and friends fully enjoy the summer and Fourth of July festivities by celebrating smart. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Stay a safe distance away. And pack the earplugs. Remember: Close to 40 percent of hearing loss is preventable with proper protection.”

The dangers, signs of loud noise

Loudness is measured in decibels, with silence measuring at 0 dB. Any noise above 85 dB is considered unsafe.

Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB, presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range.

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