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, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these activities go back to something like 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. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, understandably.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. 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 happened.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you start 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 should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume 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 reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no excuse not to keep a pair with you. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Check 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.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re primarily concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a bit 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 repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more profound steps to protect your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is typically 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. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact decibel level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and see us: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you recognize 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. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.