Some activities are simply staples of summer: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will decline.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to avoid significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing 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. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a quieter setting.
This list isn’t complete, of course. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it isn’t like people say, “Ow, the tiny 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 may be developing hearing loss without any detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- You can get out of the venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is really your best solution. But it’s also the least fun solution. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become severe.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. 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.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect 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 suddenly takes you by surprise. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If you notice any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. 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 team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact volume level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, even your headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.