Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can result in a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, 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 could have damaged your ears.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not 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 may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try moving away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Keep a pair 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 keep a set 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: Honestly, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it may also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become severe.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the aim is to protect your ears. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Use a volume monitoring app: 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 volume monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The better the fit, the better the protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added advantage of our personalized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
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 events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. 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.
Because if you really love going to see an airshow or a NASCAR race or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that in the future. If you’re not smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.