Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these activities return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
And that can be an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, understandably, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid severe damage, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another indication that damage has happened, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a good indication that something isn’t right. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can result in a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter setting.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone 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? And are you in a dangerous spot? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If you detect any ear pain, back away from the speakers. To put it bluntly, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary break.
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it will also finish your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become severe.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get loud, the goal 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 efficient way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be a lot easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added benefit of our personalized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you know how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.