Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a good indication that something is wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t necessarily disregard tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list is not complete, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to watch for secondary signs.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are a few options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the goal is to protect your ears. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there isn’t any reason not to have a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you may have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can get out of the concert venue: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night repairing an old Corvette with loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to protect your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Speak with us today: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and record damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. 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.
Because if you really love going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that in the future. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.