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Bursting balloons is actually not safe for children’s ears

Posted February 4, 2017

This research needs no introduction – popping balloons may cause damage to children‘s ears. It is so common for children to have balloons at their birthday parties that adults do not even think it may be dangerous in any way. However, this new study from University of Alberta says that the loud pop of the balloon may be enough to cause some significant damage to hearing.

Balloons are used almost in every child’s party and it is so tempting to burst them. Image credit: Wagino 20100516 via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Would you shoot a 12-gauge shotgun close to your children? Sure you would not. However, popping a balloon seems to innocent and harmless no one thinks twice before doing that. Now scientists measured the noise generated by bursting balloons and discovered they are as loud as a high-powered shotgun. Sure, popping a balloon once in a while should not do too much damage, one would think, but apparently it all adds up and can become a reason why someone does not have good hearing later in life.

The problem is that exploding a balloon is so much fun – it is pretty much irresistible once you come close to this inflated colourful toy. And children get to interact with them all the time. Pretty much in every children party there are balloons, which, as it turns out, may be a hazard to children’s hearing. Scientists measures noise made by popping balloons with a pin, blowing them up until they ruptured and crushing them until they burst. So a 12 gauge shotgun makes a noise of about 164 decibels. Rapturing the balloon by blowing it too much, which is the loudest of the tested methods, results in a blast of 168 decibels.

This is far louder than recommended norms for a noisy blast both for adults and, of course, for children. In fact, even 140 decibels can cause some significant damage. Loud bang may damage delicate hair cell in the inner ear. Bill Hodgetts, one of the authors of the study, said: “We need to think about our hearing health just like we think about our overall health. Hearing loss is one of those invisible problems—until you have it, you don’t even think about it. Once you have it, it impacts everything”. And so both adults and children should be concerned about protecting their hearing for a more enjoyable life in the future.

Balloons are so fun and seemingly harmless. However, once they pop the noise can cause some serious damage and there is nothing fun about that. So people should think of different entertainment for their children.


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