Some activities are just staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Let’s face it: you’ve had 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 sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use effective hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
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, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to stop significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to stay balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another indication that damage has happened.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. You shouldn’t necessarily ignore tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can damage 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 it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to look out for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone notices and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a giant speaker! In other words, try getting away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- 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 essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But if you work in your garage daily fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- 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 a lot easier to recognize and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Wear professional or prescription level ear protection. This may include personalized 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 you need them.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will let you know. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 in the future. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.