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, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these events return 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 often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will wane.
But it’s ok. If you use effective ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
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 pretty distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to stop severe injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal 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.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, 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 need to watch for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will take place anytime you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience 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. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in a dangerous spot? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have a few options, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken 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.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find 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 with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the source of the noise. Perhaps 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 break.
- Keep a set 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 have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. 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: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it will also finish your fun. 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 consider getting out if your symptoms become significant.
Are there any other methods 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 every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening repairing an old Corvette with loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Talk to us today: You need to identify where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to recognize and note any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app for that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when you need them.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can have fun at all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these steps even with 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 smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.