Summertime has some activities that are just 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 activities go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve had 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 the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will deteriorate.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to stay balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- 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 pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
This list isn’t complete, of course. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to look out for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms at all. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have a few options, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: If you really want to protect your ears, this is really your best solution. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the show utilizing a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become significant.
- 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 excuse not to keep a pair with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening restoring an old Corvette with loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more profound steps to protect your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, even your headphones. Understanding 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. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.