Summer has some activities that are simply staples: 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). As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will decline.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, naturally, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another indication that damage has taken place.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re trying 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 setting.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud decibel levels harm 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 fragile.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud noise will result in damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone notices and is immediately entertained 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? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and protect your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you really want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it will also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If your ears start hurting, be sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! In other words, try moving away 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.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly concerned with safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage every day restoring 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 not the same.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Talk to us today: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, 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 measures. And that’s relevant with anything, 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 decades from now.