Summertime has some activities that are just staples: 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). As more of these activities return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be a problem. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s caused your ears to ring. 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 deteriorate.
But don’t worry. With the proper hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How can you tell 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, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, 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 have to look out for secondary signs.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone sees and is immediately captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Well, you’ve got a few solutions, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is really your best solution. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are significant, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
- 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 decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover up and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is essential so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a big speaker! Essentially, distance yourself from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to protect 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 nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening restoring an old Corvette with loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Come in and see us: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to detect and record any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect 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 protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.