Several months back, we discussed hearing loss in children and one reader commented about how significant damage can be done from even innocent and child-friendly sources of noise like party balloons.
This is indeed true.
While the humble balloon may seem benign enough, recent investigations found that at close range, the noise produced from a rupturing balloon can be louder than a shot from a shotgun or a rifle (1). At 167.8dBSPL (sound pressure level), a balloon burst was only slightly lower than the volume of a .357 Magnum pistol shot! The Australian Government's National Occupational Health and Safety Commission reports that "for peak noise, the national standard is a peak sound pressure level of 140dB" (2). So the level of impulse noise produced from a rupturing balloon is not only hazardous for children, but also adults too. The high-intensity impulse noise caused by the balloon popping creates large changes in air pressure which can damage the little hair within the delicate inner ear leading to hearing loss. Although the results from this study are indeed alarming, this post is not aimed to scare people into no longer using balloons, but rather to encourage greater awareness and education into the impact noise can have even from something as simple as a balloon.
The difficult thing with hearing loss is that it is often described as an “invisible problem”, with people rarely putting too much thought into their ear health or listening environments. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges their concerns for about 1.1 billion young people worldwide from hearing loss due to 'unsafe listening practices' (3). What we need to understand is, is that cumulative noise exposure (noise exposure over an extended period of time) can be viewed the same way that sun exposure is (4); that is, to realize that damage done today can impact us in the future.
So where to from here? Prevention is always better than cure. By making some smart changes to our attitudes and to how conscious we are of our listening environments today, our choices can significantly impact how well we hear into the future. If you have any concerns about your hearing or of your child’s hearing, feel free to contact the clinic for further investigation today.
For more information about hearing protection, check out our previous blog post here.