Children’s birthday parties are filled with too much sugar and the occasional roughhousing injury. But what about balloons? A new study found that the sound of a popping balloon can put your child’s hearing at risk.
How Loud is a Balloon?
A new study by a pair of researchers at the University of Alberta found that the sound of a popping balloon can be louder than a gunshot. Bill Hodgetts and Dylan Scott came up with the idea to test how loud a balloon popping is while attending a child’s birthday party.
They used a standard package of party balloons purchased at a party supply store. They blew up each balloon, popped them using a variety of methods and measured how loud the popping sound was. Their results were staggering.
A balloon popped by a pin measured 155 dB.
A balloon popped by hand measured 159 dB.
A balloon inflated until it popped measured 168 dB.
To put this into perspective, the blast of a pistol measures 167 dB.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Now you may be wondering what these results mean. Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises is called noise-induced hearing loss. Specifically,
- Exposure to sound over 85 dB can cause damage within 8 hours
- Exposure to sound over 100 dB can cause damage within 15 minutes
- Exposure to sound over 120 dB can cause damage instantly
Noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common type, behind only hearing loss related to normal aging called presbycusis; this type of hearing loss is also the most preventable.
Your Louisville hearing specialist estimates that 15 percent of people in the US between the ages of 20 and 69 are experiencing hearing loss that is the result of exposure to excessive noise. Many of our recreational activities actually put us in harm’s way. The most popular ones include:
- Riding motorcycles
- Attending rock concerts
- Listening to music at high volume through earbuds or headphones
- Mowing the lawn
- Using a leaf blower
What Do the Results Mean?
So, what do the results of this study mean? While they probably won’t eliminate the use of balloons at parties, the results can help spread awareness. Your Louisville audiologist recommends teaching your children how to safely and responsibly handle balloons. This can prevent them from accidently popping one and endangering their hearing
To learn more about protecting yourself or your children from noise-induced hearing loss, contact your Louisville audiologist.