Loud balloons damage hearing. But they don’t come with any warning about hearing risk from loud impulse sounds. Current science shows noise, including sudden impulse noise, can damage the inner ears and the connections between the inner ears and hearing nerves. This can cause tinnitus, hyperacusis and/or hearing loss.
Experts believe peak impulse noise of 120 dB SPL (Sound Pressure Level) or softer is safe for adults in the workplace. But many believe the limit should be lower for children and the general public. A study by Hodgetts and Scott (2016) found the average peak level of a balloon pop ranged from 155 dB SPL to 168 dB SPL depending on whether you popped it with a pin or blew it up until it exploded. This is louder than a 12-gauge shotgun and 30-06 rifle, and nearly as loud as a 357 magnum handgun.
There is no good reason to decorate with balloons when there’s no way to control if and when they’ll pop. There is no good reason to have balloons around anyone, from children to adults, when the risk from loud popping is temporary or permanent hearing system damage. Add that to the environmental damage from old balloons hurting wildlife and adding to the plastic ocean like the Pacific Garbage Patch.
In the paraphrased lyrics of The Temptations, “Balloons, what are they good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Photo Credit Gaelle Marcel at Unsplash
Jan L. Mayes MSc Aud(C) RAud is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, audiologist, and hearing healthcare educator. She specializes in tinnitus, hyperacusis, noise-induced hearing system damage, and darkly disturbing, macabre horror fiction.