Boom! Bang! Many celebrate America’s Independence Day by attending a fireworks display. As we gaze up to admire the colors, we should also be mindful about protecting our ears from the noise. Noise tolerance varies by person but one thing is for sure: loud noises affect our hearing.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, sounds that measure 70 decibels are considered dangerous to our hearing after 8 hours of listening. Loud sounds can damage the tiny hair cells that help send signals to the brain for interpretation. In fact, over 40 million Americans ages 20-64 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.

One of the first steps to protecting yourself against noise-induced hearing loss is to be aware of the sounds around you, so you know when to use hearing protection. For example, take stock of your day-to-day activities. Do you work in an office or do you have a construction or industrial job? What are the sounds you are exposed to and of those how many would be in the 70 or above decibel range? Talk to your employer about what ear protection options are available. Next what are your hobbies and activities? Hobbies such as knitting will have much different noise risks than mechanics or woodworking, which involve power tools. Frequent attendance at concerts or sporting events also puts you at risk for loud sounds. Finally, do you use ear buds or headphones to listen to the radio or to your favorite music? What volume do you tune in at? You need to make sure you keep the volume low and give your ears regular “listening breaks.”

To get an idea of how sounds register for decibels here are some examples:

  • 130 decibels = jackhammer at a construction site
  • 106 decibels = your gas lawn mower or snow blower
  • 100 decibels = using a hand drill on a repair
  • 70 decibels = busy traffic in a city or even some vacuum cleaners
  • 60 decibels = a typical conversation
  • 30 decibels = a whisper or quiet library

We don’t need to stop doing the things we love because of noise. Instead, we need to be mindful of the noise and be sure to wear hearing protection when needed.