Yes, exposure to very loud sounds (above 85 decibels) can damage your baby's hearing to some extent. The extent of the damage depends on the intensity of the sound, how long it went on for and how close your child was to the source of the noise. A good rule of thumb is, if you can easily talk over the sound, it shouldn't harm your baby's hearing. If you have to shout to be heard, the sound is likely to be too loud for your baby. Fireworks or firecrackers at Diwali such as whistling rockets, anaar bombs and chakri bombs have sound levels that range between 130 and 160 decibels when fired at a distance of about two metres. So they can impair your child's hearing if he is in this range.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risks of your child's hearing being damaged:
- Celebrate Diwali with diyas, lanterns and electrical lights rather than fireworks, crackers and bombs. It will not only be kinder on your baby's ears but also reduce your family's exposure to harmful pollutants.
- If you cannot imagine celebrating Diwali without fireworks, choose the kind that do not create loud noises such as hand-held sparklers, fountains and spinning (chakra) fireworks.
- Keep doors and windows closed so that in the house, the noise levels are not deafening. If you usually keep your door open on Diwali to invite auspiciousness into your home, keep your baby in a different room where he is better protected from the noise.
- If you want your baby to see the fun outside, protect his ears with cotton balls or baby ear muffs. If you use cotton balls, make sure they are tightly rolled so that loose cotton doesn't get stuck in your baby's ear. Also, do not push the cotton ball deep into his ear. Keep in mind that even if some form of protection of your baby's ears might help, there is no guarantee it will be good enough to protect his hearing if the sound levels are very loud.
Some babies are more sensitive to loud noises than others so watch your little one for clues that he has had enough. Take him to a quiet place if he does show signs of being overwhelmed. A loud noise is likely to frighten every baby but if your little one seems to be in pain after a sudden very loud noise, speak to his doctor. Also consult your paediatrician if you are in any way worried about your baby's hearing. He may ask you to get some tests done to form a diagnosis.