LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- We all get so dazzled by fireworks and music that we forget how occasional loud sounds can lead to hearing loss over time.
Whether it's Independence Day or an occasional concert, ear specialists remind us how sensitive your hearing can be.
On holidays, Alex Darling of Sam Clemente and her young family are always on the go. We caught up with them as they were heading out of town.
"We are just going to find whatever fireworks show that we can go to," Darling said.
Fireworks are a feast for the eyes, but experts say the focus should also be on the ears.
"If you are close enough to a loud firework, it can have permanent damage on your ears just even a one time exposure," said neurotologist Dr. Courtney Voelker at Pacific Neuroscience Institute.
She said a loud blast can lead to temporary, muffled hearing and ear ringing - but cumulative exposure can eventually lead to permanent hearing loss
"Anything over 85 decibels of sustained noise exposure is damaging to your ears, and firecrackers can be upwards of 120 or 170 decibels," she said.
That is louder than a jack hammer!
Dr. Voelker says new research shows hearing loss is a major cause of cognitive decline as we age so you want to start protecting your hearing as early as possible.
First, download an app that measures decibel levels and head to the store.
"Grab some of those foam ear plugs that are over-the-counter and keep them in your bags. Keep them in your purse. And when that decibel reader is over 85, hand out those earplugs," Voelker said.
Noise canceling earbuds and headphones will work too. Just make sure they are blocking noise and not sending loud music directly to the ear canal.
Darling's five kids are between 2 and 12 years old. She now knows protecting their hearing will help them lead healthier lives. But they can still enjoy the light show.
"Probably going to buy some noise-canceling headphones or some earplugs," she said.