Hearing management

Updated 13 February 2017

Pop goes that balloon – and maybe also your hearing

Loud noises, like popping balloons, can exceed safe levels and even damage the inner ear, a new study finds.

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Blowing up your kid's birthday balloons could end in a bang – and hearing loss, new research suggests.

Potential lifelong impact

The Canadian study found that a bursting balloon can create a sound that's louder than a shotgun and might damage hearing.

According to a Health24 article seven important causes of hearing loss are: airplanes, sirens, traffic, shouted conversation, earphones, rock concerts and trains. 

"Hearing loss is insidious – every loud noise that occurs has a potential lifelong impact," said study lead author Bill Hodgetts, an associate professor of audiology at the University of Alberta.

His team measured the noise made by busting balloons three different ways: popping them with a pin, inflating them until they ruptured, and crushing them until they burst.

The loudest noise was made by the ruptured balloon. At 168 decibels, it was louder than a 12-gauge shotgun, according to the investigators.

How loud is too loud?

The maximum impulse level a person is exposed to should not exceed 140 decibels, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. While the study couldn't prove that popping balloons causes hearing loss, the researchers said that just one exposure higher than that could damage an adult's or child's hearing.

"This research is a conversation starter," Hodgetts said in a university news release. "We are not saying don't play with balloons and don't have fun, just try to guard against popping them.

"We want people to be mindful of hearing damage over a lifetime," he added, "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."

The study was published recently in the journal Canadian Audiologist.

Read More:

SEE: Interesting facts about hearing loss

Youth risk hearing loss due to loud music

Loud noise may increase risk for workplace injuries

 

Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

AuD degree obtained in 2013 at AT Still University Health Science Depart-ment, Arizona. Masters in Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria, 2003. Remedial Teaching Diploma at Rand University, 1996. Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, 1993. Owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. Educating the community regarding early identification of hearing problems and screening of new-borns. Providing assistance and services at retirement homes. Part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. External examiner at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. Presenter at conferences and seminars.

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