Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these activities return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can cause problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s left you with ringing ears. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will decline.
But don’t worry. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term 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, naturally, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to prevent severe 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, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong sign that something is wrong. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
This list isn’t 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 an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud sound will lead to damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees and is immediately 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 should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- 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 fun solution. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to have a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and protect your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to 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 noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: 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. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this method, the precise decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Wear professional or prescription level hearing protection. This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Speak with us today: You need to recognize where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to identify and record any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized 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 holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.