Fireworks are a popular way to celebrate special occasions like Independence Day, New Year’s Eve, or even a sporting event or a rock concert. However, many first-time parents are concerned about their new baby’s ears, and with good reason! The good news is that there are ways to protect your child’s hearing while creating precious memories.
Babies’ ears are more delicate and sensitive to loud noises than adults’ ears. Their ear canals are much smaller (obv) and when sounds enter their tiny ear canals, there’s more sound pressure and those sounds become louder.
Prolonged exposure to moderate-level sounds, which are classified as being more than 80 decibels, can damage a baby’s hearing. Brief exposure to extremely loud sounds can cause permanent damage as well.
- How loud are fireworks?
- What are the risks?
- How can we protect our babies?
- Early signs of noise-induced hearing loss in babies?
- Final thoughts
How Loud Are Fireworks?
For context, a regular conversation is typically around 60 decibels. The hum of talking, laughing, and music in a restaurant is typically around 90 decibels. Firecrackers, however, can reach between 120 and 170 decibels, which is considered a dangerously loud level for a baby. More than one minute of exposure to dangerously loud noise presents a real risk of hearing loss in babies.
Knowing the noise levels fireworks have the potential of reaching (you’re listening to loud explosions after all!), it’s important to protect a baby’s ears by avoiding fireworks displays or by using noise-reducing headphones or earplugs.
What Are The Risks?
Babies who are exposed to loud noises like fireworks can experience temporary or permanent hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or even damage to the delicate structures in the ear. Since fireworks are loud and bright, and babies don’t know when or what to expect, they can also cause anxiety and fear. This can lead to long-lasting emotional impacts.
Without treatment, hearing problems in babies and children can lead to delayed or limited speech and language development. It can also lead to learning and social problems.
How Can We Protect Our Babies?
If you want to go outside and enjoy a Fourth of July fireworks display, or a football game where firecrackers are set off after every touchdown, several steps can be taken to protect the ears of babies.
- Staying a safe distance away from the fireworks is a good idea to reduce noise exposure.
- Using hearing protection is the best way to protect children’s ears. Find ear muff-style noise-canceling headphones for babies with a high Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) or Single Number Rating (SNR). The higher the number, the more sound they will block out.
- Cover babies’ ears with ear muffs. I don’t recommend using ear plugs because they are not designed for kids and babies.
- Watch fireworks displays on TV instead of in person.
Early Signs of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Babies
There are four levels of hearing loss in babies:
- Mild: Your baby can hear people when they speak, but soft voices are hard to hear.
- Moderate: Your baby can’t hear people speaking at a normal level very well.
- Severe: Your baby can’t hear when someone is speaking at a normal level and only responds to some loud noises.
- Profound: Your baby can’t hear anything when someone speaks and can only hear very loud noises.
If you’re worried about whether your baby has experienced hearing loss as a result of prolonged exposure to moderately loud noises or even brief exposure to dangerously loud noises, here are a few things you can look for as you wait to see an audiologist who can do official hearing tests.
- Not acknowledging sounds around them after the age of 6 months old
- Not being startled by loud noises
- Not saying common and reinforced single words by the time they’re 12 months old
- Doesn’t turn their head to see you when you call out their name
- Seems to hear some sounds but not others
Firework displays can be fun and exciting, and the bright lights and patterns can be mesmerizing for a baby. As new parents, maybe you’re missing out on live music or sporting events because you’re worried about the risks they pose to your babies’ ears. Your concerns are valid and you’re doing right by your baby by doing the research.
Parents should take precautions to protect their babies and young children from loud noises during a fireworks show or other loud events. By following the tips in this article, parents can ensure that their babies enjoy the festivities without any harm to their little ears. A good rule of thumb is to always have a set of ear muff-style noise-canceling headphones in your baby’s bag. By having them handy, you’ll feel comfortable and confident bringing your baby with you to those favorite outings, events, and celebrations you used to enjoy before your little sidekick came along.