Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can cause issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to prevent severe injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re trying 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 scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
This list is not complete, of course. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, 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 people say. That’s why you have to look out for secondary signs.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. 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 detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone sees and is immediately 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, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If you detect any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. To put it bluntly, move further away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary break.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and protect your ears. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can leave the venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But if you work in your garage every day fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these situations. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. 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 need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. You will also get the added benefit of our personalized 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 download 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. Using this strategy, the precise decibel level that will damage your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these measures even with 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. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.