You may want to skip all the colorful balloon popping at your child’s next birthday party, as this can damage the hearing of little ears.

Certainly, good food and fun games are all that the partygoers need to have a great time.

Plus of course, the opening of all your child’s gifts!

The Harm to Kids’ Hearing from Popping Balloons

The sound level of popping balloons was measured by University of Alberta hearing experts Dylan Scott and bill Hodgetts.

At the highest level the noise was comparable to a high-powered shotgun blast – going off next to a person’s ear!

So if you want colorful balloons to be part of your children’s birthday parties, you can do this without encouraging the popping.

• Let helium balloons float and stick to the ceiling where kids can’t grab (and pop) them, but their colorful presence will add to the party environment.

• Organize a water balloon toss in the backyard if weather permits.

• It’s not likely that children will be begging to pop balloons – unless you have them sitting around within their reach. All kids might be thinking of is eating the birthday cake!

There are MANY exciting activities that you can plan for a birthday party that do not involve balloons.

  • Treasure hunts for candy
  • Hiring a clown or magician
  • Hiring a face painter
  • Pinata (kids whack at this as it hangs and candy falls out)
  • Burlap sack and other races with prizes
  • Rent an inflatable jumping enclosure
  • Themed parties (e.g., princess, mermaid, pirate, western, Spiderman)
  • Ice cream or watermelon eating contest
  • Bubble blowing

Does popping balloons mean your child will be half-deaf after the birthday party? Of course not.

But “Hearing loss is insidious,” says Hodgetts, an associate professor of audiology.

“Every loud noise that occurs,” he says, “has a potential lifelong impact.” As a parent, you can’t always control and monitor the sounds that your kids are exposed to.

But it’s the parents who organize birthday parties. They have 100 percent control over whether or not balloons are popped.

Again, if balloons are within reach of the kids, they will think about popping them.

If balloons are already on the ceiling by the time the party guests arrive, they will not be thinking about popping them.

Just as you are very mindful of your child’s dental health and vision, you should have this same passion towards their hearing health.

Exposure to “impulse noise” over time can result in gradual hearing loss. The noise from popping balloons is impulse in nature: a sudden burst of high-charged energy.

168 Decibels!

In an experiment, balloons were blown up until they ruptured, banging in at nearly 168 decibels – four dBs louder than a 12-gauge shotgun.

“Nobody would let their child shoot something that loud without hearing protection,” says Scott, “but balloons don’t cross people’s minds.”

The sound generated from stomping on balloons and bursting them with a needle were also dangerously loud.

Are you, the parent, still poo-pooing all this? Do you make sure your children wear sunscreen when out in the sun all day? Do you make them eat vegetables?

Why exclude hearing health from your health-conscious concerns?

The nerve cells in the inner ear do not regrow or repair when they are damaged by loud noise.

Like sun damage and coronary artery disease, hearing damage is cumulative and stealthy.

“Hearing loss is one of those invisible problems,” says Scott. “Until you have it, you don’t even think about it.”

If your child seems to have super hearing, this is STILL NO REASON to allow balloon popping any more than you’d allow your child to roast his or her delicate skin in the sun without sunscreen or go months on end without any vegetables.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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