Popping balloons can lead to permanent hearing loss, researchers say


In a startling study, researchers in Canada have said that when balloons pop, they could make noises that are much louder than a shotgun blasts and this could not only be a problem for children, but could also lead to permanent hearing loss.

University of Alberta researchers have published findings of the study in Canadian Audiologist wherein they aren’t asking parents to keep their children away from balloons, but they are just urging them to try to guard them against popping the balloons. Researchers have urged people to be mindful of the fact that loud noises could be dangerous and each of these noises could have a potential lifelong impact including hearing loss.

Scientists at the University measured the noise generated by bursting balloons and were startled to find that the impact, at its highest level, was comparable to a high-powered shotgun going off next to someone’s ear. While the shock that these high-powered noise cause to the tiny eardrums may not seem worrisome at first considering the relatively low frequency of a child being exposed to popping balloons, but scientists raise the question of safety thresholds for impulse noise – created by a sudden burst of intense energy – that can result in gradual hearing loss.

Wearing ear protection and using a high-pressure microphone and a preamplifier researchers measured the noise effects by busting balloons three different ways: popping them with a pin, blowing them up until they ruptured and crushing them until they burst. The loudest bang was made by the ruptured balloon at almost 168 decibels, four decibels louder than a 12-gauge shotgun. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the recommended maximum impulse level that any Canadian should experience should not exceed 140 decibels. Even one exposure could be considered potentially unsafe to hearing for both children and adults. The results for the other two methods were slightly lower, but still a concern, researchers add.

Hearing damage occurs when the delicate hair cells—which don’t regrow—in the inner ear are worn down by noise. People need to start viewing cumulative hearing loss the same way they think about an equally passive but very real health concern like sun damage, researchers suggest.