Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do additional irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to prevent significant damage, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has taken place.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. 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 buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms at all. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
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 ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have a few solutions, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you detect any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than no protection. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily interested in protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But if you work in your garage daily 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.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more serious steps to safeguard your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app for that. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this strategy, the precise decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and see us: We can do 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 notice and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. 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 recognize 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.