Ban Balloons! They’re Louder Than a Shotgun!

“No birthday party is complete without balloons – just as long as they don’t burst,” Becky Fletcher at cautions. “Scientists have warned that popping balloons can be louder than blasts from a shotgun, and may lead to permanent hearing loss.” The survey said!

Using ear protection and a high-pressure microphone, University of Alberta scientists measured the noise of balloons being popped with a pin, blowing them up until they popped and finally crushing them until they burst. The loudest noise made by a balloon (being blown up until it ruptured) was 168 decibels – four times higher than a 12-gauge shotgun. The other two methods still produced noises that were still a ‘concern.'”

You can tell it’s a British website; Ms. Fletcher felt compelled to mention that the researchers wore ear protection. As should anyone shooting a firearm. Or popping balloons?

And now a message from the American Speech-Language Association:

Exposure to noise greater than 140 dB can permanently damage hearing. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-dB level. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB.

Firing guns in a place where sounds can reverberate, or bounce off walls and other structures, can make noises louder and increase the risk of hearing loss. Also, adding muzzle brakes or other modifications can make the firearm louder. People who do not wear hearing protection while shooting can suffer a severe hearing loss with as little as one shot, if the conditions are right.

Roll on, Hearing Protection Act!

Meanwhile, my Google-fu reveals that a Remington 11-87 turkey 12 ga. (3” ammo) w/choke generates 161.5db. Which makes the Remmy less noisy than a 168db balloon burst (not four times as loud). The same chart shows that a .357 Ruger GP100 generates the same db level as the balloon.

I reckon it’s only a matter of time before Nanny State UK bans balloons. I hope I’m kidding. But I’m not joking when I say that the idea of testing gunfire on chinchillas’ ears would surely elicit howls of protest. And yes I called your Shirley.


  1. avatar DaveL says:

    I reckon it’s only a matter of time before Nanny State UK bans balloons.

    Well, they couldn’t possibly try to make balloons quieter instead, because then that would make it harder for police to detect balloon-popping at long distances, thus impeding their ability to enforce the ban on balloons that was only enacted in the first place because they were too loud.

  2. avatar scrubula says:

    Actually, if you convert decibel scale (logarithmic) to intensity scale (linear) 168 decibels is a little more than 4 times the intensity of 161.5 decibels… I don’t think it would cause 4 times the hearing damage though.

    1. avatar Vhyrus says:

      Came here to say this. The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale, so an increase of 10 is actually an order of magnitude higher in power. 161.5 dB corresponds to approximately 1.5e16 power, while 168 dB is around 6e16 power. As crazy as it sounds, it actually is 4 times louder.

      1. avatar Michæl Atchison says:

        “Loudness” isn’t on the same scale as intensity and power though. “Four times as loud” works out to be somewhere around +18 dB. (Give or take. Perceived loudness is subjective, after all.)

        So maybe they used 150 dB as their baseline for a shotgun blast. Or maybe they just meant to say that the balloon burst was four times as “intense”?

  3. avatar 16V says:

    Chinchillas for hearing research? Dan Akroyd told me they were good for fur, and chinch burgers that Lorraine Newman said she liked so much. Who knew?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      …And who could forget Dan and Lorraine with the ‘Bass-O-Matic’. The original, and the 40 year anniversary edition:

      1. avatar 16V says:

        Bass-o-matic was the only one I could find the vid on too. The ‘Rovco Chinch Ranch’ seems to have disappeared down the memory hole.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          ‘Shimmer’ (It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping’ is also floating around out there.

          If you want to invest the bandwidth, the entire SNL series was released on DVD and can be found at your favorite Torrent destination…

  4. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “You can tell it’s a British website; Ms. Fletcher felt compelled to mention that the researchers wore ear protection. As should anyone shooting a firearm. Or popping balloons?”

    Here in the USA, we think the ‘Nanny State’ here is bad, but we have *nothing* on the outrages the UK (and the rest of the EU) has to put up with.

    I’m convinced that was a real factor in the ‘Brexit’ vote passing like it did…

  5. avatar Brian says:

    They must be popping different balloons than I am. 168 db??

  6. avatar jjimmyjonga says:

    Sorry, but i am in fact against using rabbits to test hearing, given it is fairly easy to create a virtual human ear now (yes, i know you were being factious ) . I love to eat rabbits, and harvest them quickly, but shudder at the thought of them being tortured for a “hearing study” – same goes for chimps, dogs, or any innocent critter. Before you jump on my back, please remember there are plenty of “wild” humans who value life very little beyond their next high or thrill, and very few wild chimps who want to be left alone ( think willing Jihadist?). God, please let us soon be able to buy easily a small metal oil filter to place over the barrel of our guns so i dont bother other people with my shooting and dont go any more death from hunting. I spent $3800 for 4 stupid silencers that in a free market would be sold for $75 each ($50 for the engineering, $25 for the threaded aluminum and steel tube) – this is nuts.

    1. avatar Kroglikepie says:

      Premium suppressors still come with a premium cost. The differences in materials, engineering, and construction between a cheapo $75 can and a $1000 dollar are *not* insignificant.

      1. avatar 16V says:

        Engineering costs are paid for by the American company that does the R&D. The Chinese who dupe every design without reservation or hesitation, will sell the 90% as good copy for 10% of the American model.

        Welcome to the race to the bottom!

        1. avatar Kroglikepie says:

          Yeah, no. I’ve more than had my fill of that with my Type-D SKS. No way am I applying that to a suppressor.

  7. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    They aren’t nearly as loud when you fill them with water.

    Water balloons! For the children!

  8. avatar David Z says:

    This is what you spend your time doing? Conflating balloons with a shotgun? You might serve the second amendment people who your website caters to more by defending the right to bear arms instead of making fun of balloon popping. It’s a distraction from what you propose to do. Seems like a lot of ridiculous distractions are broadcast these days to try to avoid true scrutiny by the general public. Both coasts and what’s in between and urban and rural. Honest true facts are what’s needed. No alternative facts, disparaging attacks on anyone, any institution, any government who might differ.

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      Evidently, you didn’t get the sarcasm. I understand it’s hard to project sarcasm in print, unless it’s over the top, which this article just missed.
      The point is this: those opposed to to the HPA say there’s no real danger to shooter’s hearing from gunshots; they can wear ear protection. However, this study says there is a danger to hearing from such loud noises. Whether from balloons or guns, the danger is real.
      It points out the false information the hoplophobes will put out to keep anything pro-gun from being seen as good.

      Sorry for being Captain Obvious, but David needed to have this made clear.

  9. avatar anonymoose says:

    Halt or I shall simulate gunfire!

  10. avatar JoeVK says:

    If you pop balloons with a shotgun, the resulting concussion will explode your head.

  11. avatar Bill B says:

    To quote Tom in Oregon from an earlier thread

    Because ice cream doesn’t have bones.”

    Sorry. This one has become the written equivalent to an earworm.

    Balloons. Louder than shotguns. Okay, Nancy. Whatever. Must be that the study results are directly related to the history of the English drinking warm beer. (Their ‘fridges were made back then by Lucas. Those with an automotive service background will understand.)

    Sounds like a great argument for HPA. (‘sounds’…. see what I did there?)

    ….gotta stop working so much overtime….

    1. avatar 16V says:

      FWIW- The first time I remember hearing the ‘ice cream’ line was from a 3 Stooges episode from around the 1940s. IIRC, It was Curly, saying something to the effect that “ice cream has no bones” or similar.

      Though I think the color thing has been added since, and supposedly a similar bit was on some episode of ‘Lucy’ but I never watched it to know.

    2. avatar Scoutino says:

      Lucas, the Lord of Darkness!

  12. avatar kenneth says:

    As every trap shooter knows. Seldom have I ever been to a trap or skeet shoot, that a balloon doesn’t pop and everybody gets all startled from the excessive noise. All wondering who brought the 3″ magnum trap loads!
    I wonder just what kind of “balloon” they ruptured to measure that result. Possibly the type that the rest of the us in the world call a truck tire???
    I can hear their answer already: “We cannot possibly release the type of 168 dB balloon. Its a safety issue now. People might pop one for fun and damage their tender little ears. We can’t possibly be a part of that.” ~And also we wouldn’t want to point out that a truck tire at 200PSI is NOT exactly a balloon, even though they are both pressurized hollow rubber. That would give away our dishonestly, and we don’t want to point THAT out either.

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