Some activities are simply staples of summer: 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 activities return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
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 a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- 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 occurred.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a strong sign that something is wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. 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 little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will produce damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody notices and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. 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 various degrees of effectiveness:
- You can go somewhere less noisy: If you really want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are severe, think about getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover up and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
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 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 a lot, it’s a little different.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Those steps could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact volume level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam 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 note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
- Wear professional or prescription level hearing 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. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s relevant with everything, 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 continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.