Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these events are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t necessarily disregard tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can trigger a pounding headache. 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 indication 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 may have damaged your ears.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to look out for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone sees and is instantly captivated 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 hanging too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got a few solutions, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it’s also the least fun solution. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the show utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become significant.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get noisy, the aim is to protect your ears. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a big speaker! Put simply, try moving away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
- Find 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. Your hearing health is essential so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mainly interested in protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage daily restoring 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 a little different.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Those steps could include the following:
- Speak with us today: We can perform a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. 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 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 enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Knowing 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 continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.