DeafHear Regional News
Balloons bursting can damage hearing!
A group of researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have recently reported on how bursting balloons poses a significant risk to hearing.
A common party activity, be it a children’s or an adult’s birthday party, is the bursting of balloons. Researchers have found that bursting a balloon can be louder than a high-powered shotgun blast, meaning it could be a significant risk to the hearing of children and adults.
Hearing experts Bill Hodgetts and Dylan Scott measured the noise generated by bursting balloons and were startled to find that the impact, at its highest level, was comparable to a high-powered shotgun going off next to someone’s ear. They aren’t out to be party-poopers, but they want to use their findings about bursting balloon noise, published in Canadian Audiologist, to raise awareness about general risks to hearing.
Starting the conversation
"This research is a conversation starter," said Hodgetts, an associate professor of audiology. "We are not saying don’t play with balloons and don’t have fun, just try to guard against popping them. Hearing loss is insidious--every loud noise that occurs has a potential lifelong impact. We want people to be mindful of hearing damage over a lifetime, because once you get to the back end of life, no hearing aid is as good as the once healthy built-in system in your inner ear."
Both fathers of young children, Hodgetts and Scott wanted to explore the balloon noise that often goes hand-in-hand with birthday parties, where the urge to pop the floating toy is irresistible. Hodgetts got the idea after seeing a YouTube video where kids at a party stomped hundreds of balloons.
"I thought the acoustic insult on those kids’ ears must be something to be concerned about, so we asked the question, how loud are these things?"
Pretty loud, as it turns out. Louder than a 12-gauge shotgun!
Hodgetts and Scott measured the noise effects by busting balloons three different ways: popping them with a pin, blowing them up until they ruptured and crushing them until they burst.
The loudest bang was made by the ruptured balloon at almost 168 decibels, four decibels louder than a 12-gauge shotgun. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends that the maximum impulse level any Canadian should experience should not exceed 140 decibels. Even one exposure could be considered potentially unsafe to hearing for both children and adults.
"It’s amazing how loud the balloons are," Scott said. "Nobody would let their child shoot something that loud without hearing protection, but balloons don’t cross people’s minds."
The results for the other two methods were slightly lower, but still a concern, he said.
As real a health concern as sun damage
Hearing damage occurs when the delicate hair cells--which don’t regrow--in the inner ear are worn down by noise. People need to start viewing cumulative hearing loss the same way they think about an equally passive but very real health concern like sun damage, Hodgetts suggested.
"We used to put on suntan oil and go as dark as we could, but you look at parents and schools and daycares and it’s now part of the routine to put sunscreen on a child."
We want people to be mindful of hearing damage over a lifetime, because once you get to the back end of life, no hearing aid is as good as the once healthy built-in system in your inner ear.
Hearing loss – a common condition.
Hearing loss is a very common condition in the adult population. Over half a million Irish people have some level of hearing loss, while a quarter of a million have a ’significant disabling hearing loss’ as defined by the World Health Organisation. The WHO also estimate that up to half of all hearing loss in the population is preventable.
“These facts, and the fact that hearing loss can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life, means that people should take care to avoid loud noise exposure, both for themselves and their children” says Brendan Lennon, DeafHear’s Head of Advocacy. “So, if you are going to be exposed to loud sounds, such as at a major sporting event or a concert, the advice is to consider wearing ear protection” he adds. And maybe avoid the balloons at future birthday parties!
If you think you may have a hearing loss,
consider getting a hearing test as soon as possible!
For more information, visit www.mindyourhearing.ie
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