Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like 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.
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 an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use effective hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. 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 loud events and you feel dizzy you may have injured your ears.
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t automatically disregard tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. 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 damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary signs will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got a few solutions, and they vary when it comes to how helpful they’ll be:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most efficient way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. This way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is really your best solution. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have 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.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be 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 rest while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact decibel level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
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 wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
Because if you really enjoy going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that as the years go on. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.