The popping sound of a balloon could cause noise-induced hearing loss

No one likes the shock of a balloon popping but that loud bang may have other consequences for children.

An article by researchers at the University of Alberta found that popping a balloon generates a noise that can reach 168 decibels (dB), louder than a jet engine.

The shock to tiny eardrums may seem like nothing but it does raise the question of safety thresholds for impulse noise, created by a sudden burst of intense energy, that can result in gradual hearing loss. The researchers say the sudden noise can lead to gradual hearing loss.

"This research is a conversation starter," said Bill 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".

Decibel chart

It is important to ensure that children aren’t subjected to regular noise exposure above 85 decibels as there are increased risks to damaging hearing. Hearing loss is one of those invisible problems – until you have it, you don’t even think about it. Once you have it, it impacts everything.

If you suspect that you or a family member is suffering from hearing loss get in contact with us, either by calling 0800 612 7978 or completing the form, and we will carry out a free hearing assessment in one of our clinics or in the comfort of your own home.

Not quite ready to see us just yet? Try our free online hearing test to check for yourself if you are experiencing hearing loss.

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Our hearing specialists are available to answer your queries so please fill out this form and we'll get right back to you.
  • How does noise-induced hearing loss occur (sound exposure levels)?
      Loud noises often affect our ears by damaging the hair cells inside the cochlea. These could be listening to music too loudly or working on noisy construction sites. Constant exposure to sounds at 85 dB and over for extended periods of time can cause serious damage to your hearing, as well as 'impulse' sounds like a balloon popping!

  • Average Decibel Meter and Hearing Loss Chart for a few familiar sounds
      We're constantly exposed to a wide range of sounds, some much louder than others, so this list shows you some of the more common sounds you'll encounter.

      0 dB > Threshold of Normal Hearing
      10 dB > Normal Breathing
      20 dB > Rustling Leaves
      30 dB > Whisper
      40 dB > Refrigerator Humming
      60 dB > Normal Conversation
      70 dB > Vacuum Cleaner
      80 dB > Average City Traffic
      90 dB > Food Blender
      100 dB > Pneumatic Drill
      115 dB > Loud Music Concert
      140 dB > Jet Engine

      Note: Excessive exposure to sounds over 85 dB could cause hearing loss!

  • What are the effects of noise-induced hearing loss?
      The damage from noise-induced hearing loss tends to be gradual, so you may not notice it for some time. Sounds will become muffled or distorted, or you may just have a feeling of blocked ears (which can also be a symptom of excessive earwax) or tinnitus. The best way to find out if you're experiencing hearing loss is to take our free online hearing test with results delivered instantly - all you need are some headphones (wired or wireless) and a few minutes of your time. If you would like to find out more about hearing and hearing aids then please get in contact with us either by calling 0800 612 7978 or filling out the contact form.

  • Will noise-induced hearing loss go away?
      Due to the nature of noise-induced hearing loss the damage to hair cells within the cochlea is irreparable. Once they're gone, they're gone for good, as these hair cells do not grow back. Sometimes when exposed to loud noises and impulse sounds, we sometimes experience muffled hearing that seems to disappear after 16-48 hours. However, it's still believed there will be residual long-term damage to your hearing so the best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to prevent it and limit exposure.

  • How can I prevent noise-induced hearing loss?
      • Be aware of surrounding noises and which ones can cause damage (see of decibel chart)
      • Use ear protection or ear plugs to protect your ears in noisy environments (concerts, construction sites, sporting events, etc.)
      • Move away from loud noises if you're unable to reduce the noise level or use protection
      • Protect delicate ears (especially children and the elderly)
      • Check your hearing with an Audiologist or use our free online hearing test

  • What decibel level is ear protection needed for?
      As mentioned previously, noise levels that reach above 85 decibels are known to damage your hearing over time, especially if the exposure is constant. The distance to and length of time you are exposed all play a part so move further away from where the sound is coming from and/or reduce the amount of time you're exposed to it, if possible of course! Otherwise, ear protectors or ear plugs are advised.