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Look out for these party crashers

New Year's Eve is a time of joyous celebration with family and friends to say goodbye to the past year and to welcome the next while wishing for good things and making resolutions.

However, New Year's Eve also poses hidden dangers for your ears. Here are some potential causes of noise-induced hearing loss and what you can do to combat them:

Fireworks

If you live somewhere warm - or even if you don't - there's a good chance that fireworks could be a part of your celebration, whether they're hosted by the city or are done in your own backyard. Aside from the obvious injuries that can be caused by fireworks if safety precautions are not followed, fireworks can also be damaging to your ears.

noise-induced hearing lossAs it turns out, fireworks experienced from between 3 and 10 feet away - most often heard by whoever is setting them off - are as loud as between 150 and 155 decibels! These can cause instant noise-induced hearing loss and it's likely a very painful feeling. But even as far as 800 feet away, fireworks can sound as loud as 88 to 126 decibels - high enough to be damaging.

However, there are many precautions you can take while still enjoying New Year's Eve fireworks:

  • Keep at a safe distance from fireworks and firecrackers.
  • Wear earplugs. You can purchase inexpensive foam earplugs at a drug store.
  • If you will be celebrating with children and are expecting fireworks, make sure they have earplugs or, if they're younger, have noise-canceling headphones that completely cover their ears.
  • If you are attending a home of a family member or friend that is considering doing fireworks, convince them to celebrate instead by purchasing and using confetti poppers - a much safer option.

Concerts

If you're attending a New Year's Eve concert, such as the world-famous one in New York City's Times Square, you'll definitely be exposed to ear-damaging noises. Bring earplugs or headphones for when it gets too loud. Before the concert actually starts, look around to make sure that you're not standing near the speaker systems. The blasts from these can be incredibly painful. In fact, the front row at a concert can reach decibels of 110 or higher, but the concert speakers can top out at a whopping 145 decibels!

Bring your ear plugs and headphones to pop in and on whenever things get too loud or you need a break - in the crush of such a large event, it's not easy to escape to a quieter place so easily. During the countdown - definitely the loudest time - people will be so busy and excited that they won't even notice your ear protection, and you'll feel safe knowing you won't suffer the effects of noise-induced hearing loss. Before the concert is also a good time to educate your friends or family members so they can protect their ears as well.

Parties

Celebrating the close of another year with family and friends is a great thing, and you even get to be there to see them into the new year and wish them health and happiness. But keep in mind that in a group setting, people can get pretty loud with the hum of excitement and talking over each other!

If things start seeming too loud to you - you'll know by whether you have to shout to be heard or even hear yourself - give yourself a hearing break by stepping into a quiet room. As noise at parties tends to ebb and flow, you won't need to use earplugs or headphones. Instead, during the countdown to midnight, just plug your ears and get ready to ring in the new year!

Another option is to have a relatively quiet dinner or a game night with friends and family members to avoid noise-induced hearing loss and have a laid-back time. If you're having difficulty hearing after New Year's Eve, make sure to visit an audiologist as soon as you can. She or he can help determine what is going on. Some research shows that after exposure to loud noises, temporary hearing loss can be a protective mechanism.

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