MANKATO — The Thunderbirds will generate plenty of excitement when they fly over Mankato this weekend.
Health officials are making sure they don't damage any eardrums, either.
Mayo Clinic Health System is donating 8,000 pairs of disposable earplugs for the Minnesota Air Spectacular. Mankato and Key City Sertoma Club volunteers will hand them out on a first-come, first-serve basis at the show entrances. Medical personnel at the airport also will have a limited number of earplugs.
Sound from a jet-engine airplane can range from about 130 to 160 decibels, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. A normal conversation ranges from about 60 to 65 decibels.
Mayo audiologist Jenne Tunnell said earplugs are the only way to protect hearing at such high levels. She said children can be especially susceptible to hearing damage.
"There is no safe exposure without hearing protection at these levels," she said.
Discomfort may occur during exposure to a 120-decibel noise, according to the administration. Ear pain can occur at 130 decibels and the eardrum can rupture at 140.
Tunnell said signs of hearing damage include ringing sensations and feeling of fullness in one's ears. People can recover hearing if they are out of loud noise for 18 hours, she said, but wearing earplugs is the best way to prevent damage.
Health officials are also encouraging people at the show to apply sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids this weekend.
Eric Weller, who is in charge of medical operations during the show, stressed that people should come prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen. He said about 30 medical volunteers will be on hand and Gold Cross Ambulance will provide ambulance support if necessary.
Volunteers will staff a main medical aid station at the airport terminal and a station south of the terminal. They will also cover the grounds on golf carts. People will be able to fill up water bottles at water stations, and a limited number of sunscreen packets also will be available.
"Our goal is to provide good medical care on site for any medical issue that might occur," Weller said.
Forecasters are predicting high temperatures in the low 80s, which Weller said is a good forecast. The 2012 show saw hot and windy conditions, leading to multiple heat-related illnesses.
The Air Spectacular gates open at 9 a.m. with the events beginning at noon. Visit http://www.mnairspectacular.com/about/tickets for more ticket information.