Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these events are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use effective hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to prevent significant injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. So if you feel 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.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud decibel levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone 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 occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud noise will result in damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody notices 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. 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?
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. 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!
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you really want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it will also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you’re not standing near the stage or a huge speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the aim is to safeguard your ears. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily concerned with protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage daily fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these situations. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be much easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the extra benefit of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection increases with a better fit. When need arises, 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 for that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band decades from now.