Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can bring about problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s caused your ears to ring. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: 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. If you use effective hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe damage:
- 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. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should seek a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. 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 taken place.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud decibel levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any detectable symptoms. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Well, you’ve got several solutions, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the aim is to protect your ears. Try using 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.
- You can leave the venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it may also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, think about getting out of there, 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. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you notice any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the origin 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.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mainly interested in 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 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 loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Those steps could include the following:
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app for that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be a lot easier to recognize and record any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
- Wear professional or prescription level hearing protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these measures even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand 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. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.