Some activities are simply staples of summer: 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 an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will decline.
But don’t worry. If you use effective hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid severe damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a quieter setting.
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 damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices 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 little dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have several options, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try moving 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 no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a little 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. 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!
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you really want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it may also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there any other methods that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly concerned with protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a bit 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 evening restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. 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 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 method, the precise decibel level that will damage your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Talk to us today: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be a lot easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.