Have you ever been at a birthday party only to jump out of your skin because of an unexpected balloon pop? I know I have. Two researchers from the University of Alberta decided this was worth studying. They found that the sound of a balloon popping can cause hearing loss.
How Loud is a Balloon?
Bill Hodgetts and Dylan Scott used a standard package of party balloons from a local party supply store for their study. They blew up the balloons and then popped each one, measuring the sound the pop produced. They used three different methods for popping the balloons: a pin, their hands and blowing the balloon up until it popped on its own. Here are their results:
- 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.
In order to get some perspective on these numbers, the blast of a pistol measures 167 dB.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is called noise-induced hearing loss. This occurs when you are exposed to loud noises over a period of time. Anything over 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Specifically,
- Exposure to sound over 85 dB (Thousand Oaks city traffic) can cause damage within 8 hours.
- Exposure to sound over 100 dB (motorcycle) can cause damage within 15 minutes.
- Exposure to sound over 120 dB (a jet plane taking off) can cause damage instantly.
While this type of hearing loss is the second most common, behind only hearing loss related to normal aging called presbycusis, it is also the most preventable.
What Do the Results from This Study Mean?
Now that we understand just how loud the pop of a balloon can be, what can we do with this information? While balloons are not going to disappear from Thousand Oaks birthday parties anytime soon, you can use this information as a learning experience.
Teaching your children how to properly handle balloons can help prevent them from accidentally popping one and endangering their hearing.
To learn more about protecting you and your loved ones from noise-induced hearing loss, contact your Thousand Oaks audiologist.