Some activities are just staples of summertime: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will wane.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing 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 suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another indication that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have injured your ears.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list is not complete, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out 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 apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will lead to damage. 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 everybody is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have several options, and they vary in terms of how effective they’ll be:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly takes you by surprise. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: 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 reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is really your best solution. But it may also finish 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 think about getting out if your symptoms become severe.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you’re not standing near the stage or a huge speaker! To put it bluntly, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a needed respite.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening repairing an old Corvette with loud power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact volume level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Talk to us today: We can perform a hearing test 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.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: 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 measures even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you know 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. Being smart now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.