A blinding flash of light.

With review and feedback from CEENTA Ophthalmologist Ernest Bhend, MD (Fort Mill) and Audiologist Eric Tyler, AuD (SouthPark)

You’ve seen them on TV or in the movies: A SWAT Team needs to quickly bring down a gang of criminals. One officer throws something into a room, and it explodes with a blinding light and a loud noise. The criminals are stunned and apprehended safely. Those officers used a flashbang. Flashbangs are real and are used by law enforcement officers regularly. But how, exactly, do they work?

What is a flashbang?

A flashbang

A flashbang, also known as a stun grenade, was designed to temporarily disorient the senses without killing anyone. It does so by creating a very bright light – the flash – and a very loud noise – the bang. It was developed in the 1970s and was first used by the British Army’s Special Air Service.

How does a flashbang affect your eyes?

Ernest Bhend, MD

When a flashbang detonates, it ignites a magnesium-based charge that releases a burst of light of around 7 million candela. A common candle emits light of about 1 candela of intensity. A 25-watt compact fluorescent light bulb radiating light equally in all directions emits about 135 candela.

“Flashbang grenades will cause an effect called ‘flash blindness’ which is due to overloading the light receptors in the eye and causing a significant afterimage,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Ernest Bhend, MD, said. “The effect is temporary and reversible. The intense light can cause pain but should not cause permanent damage to the eyes.”

How does a flashbang affect your ears?

Eric Tyler, AuD

A flashbang creates a noise louder than 170 decibels when ammonium nitrate is detonated. For comparison, a jet engine is just over 140 decibels. A sudden noise that loud can cause temporary deafness and tinnitus. It also disrupts the inner ear fluid, which can cause a loss of balance.

“At close range the intensity of the sound a flashbang makes could be enough to cause permanent hearing damage,” CEENTA Audiologist Eric Tyler, AuD, said. “They are definitely not anything to be played with.”

Can a flashbang hurt me?

Although flashbangs are designed to be nonlethal and cause temporary disorientation, there have been recorded cases of people receiving severe burns, or even dying, because of a flashbang.

The best way to avoid any injury from a flashbang is to avoid situations where one might be used.

Protecting your eyes and ears

If you have been exposed to a flashbang and are concerned about your vision or hearing, schedule an appointment with a CEENTA doctor. They will help you see and hear as best as you can so you can avoid being exposed to one again.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Bhend or Dr. Tyler? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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