Some activities are just staples of summer: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had 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 as you keep exposing your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (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 yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can trigger a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. 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 watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. In other words, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Find 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 important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are severe, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever else. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: 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 taken you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and safeguard your ears. Although 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, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a little 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 evening repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those steps could include the following:
- Wear professional or prescription level ear protection. This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can do a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be much easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Use a volume 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 safeguard 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.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you know how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.