Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be a problem. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s left you with ringing ears. 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 decline.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud decibel levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Damage will happen anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone sees and is immediately entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have several solutions, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- You can leave the venue: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the show using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become severe.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available 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 need to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get noisy, the objective is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and protect your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to limit the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no excuse 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.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Essentially, distance yourself from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there any other methods that are more effective?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But if you work in your garage every day restoring your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and record damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might 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. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
Because if you really love going to see an airshow or a NASCAR race or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to keep doing that as the years go on. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.