Some activities are simply staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
And that can be an issue. 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 further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to avoid significant injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to remain balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has taken place.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Too many decibels can trigger a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you need to look out for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise 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 everybody is loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- 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’s no excuse not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the objective is to safeguard your ears. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- You can leave the concert venue: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is really your best option. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are severe, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you detect any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. 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 advanced methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Come in and see us: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be a lot easier to recognize and note any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the extra benefit of our personalized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer events. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you know how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.