Hearing management

Updated 13 December 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

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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