Experts Warn Popping Balloons Can Lead To Permanent Hearing Loss. Arrianne Del Rosario, Tech Times, writes about an experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta “to find out how noise from bursting balloons can impact hearing,” and the results were stunning. The researchers “measured the noise levels from popping balloons in three different ways: poking them with a pin, blowing them with air until they burst, and crushing them until they exploded.” The loudest bang came from blowing up a balloon with air until it popped. When it did, it was recorded at almost 168 decibels, “4 decibels louder than a high-powered, 12-gauge shotgun.”
It can’t be that bad, it’s just a balloon, right? Wrong. Del Rosario notes that the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends that “the maximum impulse level should never go beyond 140 decibels.” She adds that “[c]onstant exposure to noise, even as low as 85 decibels — for example, the noise from cars honking their horns in a city traffic — can make a person vulnerable to hearing loss.”
Del Rosario is right that damage to hearing can occur well under 140 decibles, but wrong to imply that damage only occurs at 85 decibels or higher. 85 decibels is the industrial-strength occupational noise exposure standard. Auditory damage can begin at only 75-78 decibels. The only evidence-based safe noise exposure level is the EPA’s 70 decibel time weighted average for 24 hours. Cautions noted noise activist Dr. Daniel Fink, “If it sounds too loud, it is too loud. Hearing is an important social sense, and once cochlear hair cells and auditory synaptic junctions are damaged, they are gone forever.”
Whatever the decibel reading, the problem is that each exposure to loud noise leaves a mark. As one of the researchers, Bill Hodgetts, advised:
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, 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.