Some activities are just staples of summer: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
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. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will decline.
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 hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has happened, particularly 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 damaged your ears.
- Headache: Generally, 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. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically disregard tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will take place anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, 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!
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- You can leave the concert venue: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, think about getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get loud, the aim is to protect your ears. Try using something around 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 reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily concerned with protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. Using this method, the precise volume level that will 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 record damage. You will also get the extra advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The level of protection increases with a better fit. You can always take 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 awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions 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 continue doing that as the years go on. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.