Some activities are just staples of summertime: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these events are getting back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is often 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 ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious damage:
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Excessive volume can result in a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another indication that damage has taken place.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud decibel levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will happen anytime you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody notices 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 bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have several solutions, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a giant speaker! In other words, try moving 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.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- You can go someplace quieter: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are serious, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Cover 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 decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover and protect your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a little 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 evening repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these situations. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be much easier to identify and note any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. 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.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. 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 have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. 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 understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will most likely 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.