Summertime has some activities that are simply 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 events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be an issue. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s left you with ringing ears. 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 additional irreversible 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 yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to stop significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is occurring. You shouldn’t automatically disregard tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has occurred, 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 could have damaged your ears.
This list isn’t complete, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing 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 the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you have to look out for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms at all. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging 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 loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you notice any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try moving away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Bring cheap earplugs around 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 excuse not to keep a pair with you. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- You can leave the concert venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it may also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become significant.
- 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, think about using anything around you to cover up and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
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 attend 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 loud power tools.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Come in and see us: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to recognize and record any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the extra benefit of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. In order to safeguard 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
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 just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably 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.