Ask an Audiologist – Firecrackers and Permanent Hearing Damage

May 12th, 2014 | by Tracy Saunders | Audiologist
Ask an Audiologist – Firecrackers and Permanent Hearing Damage

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Ask An Audiologist…

Yesterday in the United States I was exposed to a firecracker explosion that was part of a play in an indoor theater. Unfortunately, I was only in the third row from the stage when they set the firecracker off (I would say I was probably about 15 feet away and at eye level to the explosion). It was very loud and they had placed some kind of metal bowl with holes in it over it when it went off. Still it was very loud. It blew the pan with the holes in it upward when the firecracker went off,  but plenty of sound escaped. I am concerned I might have gotten permanent hearing damage. Other than the discomfort of hearing the blast, I did not notice any significant ringing in my ear afterward nor did I have a problem understanding words spoken in the play. Is it possible that I incurred any permanent hearing damage or could I have somehow escaped unscathed? It was a very small theater that was designed to enhance sound which has me even more worried about what decibel level I might have been exposed to at such short range with no ear protection.

Thanks for your help.

Audiologist Response…

In my opinion, it is unlikely that any permanent hearing loss will result from the experience you described.

Hearing loss that results from hearing loud explosions is typically associated with two side effects that you did not mention. These are (1) tinnitus (ringing or buzzing noises in your ear) and (2) a permanent or temporary loss in hearing sensitivity. The fact that you have not reported either symptom leads me to believe that any future and permanent hearing loss resulting from this experience is unlikely.

I always encourage patients to be vocal when they’ve attended an event where the noise seemed excessive. It seems to happen frequently.  I’ve heard numerous complaints about the volume at movie theatres, weddings, places of worship, musicals, concerts and even fitness classes! In my opinion, more loud does not equal more fun and I am trying to circulate this message.

I would also recommend that you consider purchasing some hearing protection and bring this with you any time you attend an event which has the potential to be loud.

To summarize my answer:

  1. I don’t think you will experience any permanent hearing loss
  2. I think you should inform the venue that you found the event too loud and had been concerned about your hearing
  3. In the case a place doesn’t respect your request for safe listening levels, use personal hearing protection and keep them handy

Best regards,

Tracy Saunders, M.Cl.Sc., Reg. CASLPO

Tracy Saunders is a registered Audiologist with the College of Audiologists and Speech Language Pathologists of Ontario. She holds a Master’s Degree in Audiology from the University of Western Ontario and an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto. Tracy is currently working as an audiologist and trainer at Hearing Solutions.

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