Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these activities return to something resembling 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 do, the more your hearing will deteriorate.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable ear protection, all of this summer fun 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 you’ll be pretty distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to prevent significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, 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 injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to watch for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. And the damage will get worse 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. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a big speaker! Essentially, move further away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get loud, the aim is to safeguard your ears. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- You can get out of the venue: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it will also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the show using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become extreme.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So when you need to safeguard 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 stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Talk to us today: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand 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 could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.