Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But it’s ok. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to stop severe injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has taken place.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees and is immediately entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If you detect any ear pain, back away from the speakers. In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the objective is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Honestly, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become significant.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re primarily concerned about protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage daily fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more serious steps to safeguard your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. You will also get the added advantage of our personalized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these measures even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band decades from now.