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, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s left you with ringing ears. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable 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 incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious injury:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is happening. You shouldn’t necessarily ignore tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can trigger a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily 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 could have injured your ears.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud decibel levels damage 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. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect 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 to ring. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get noisy, the goal is to safeguard your ears. 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 and protect your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a huge speaker! To put it bluntly, move further away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still enjoying yourself, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it will also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become severe.
- 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 starts to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
Are there any other methods that are more effective?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But if you work in your garage daily fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Those steps could include the following:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Talk to us today: We can perform a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be a lot easier to identify and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. Using this method, the precise decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, 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. 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. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.