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 getting larger.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will decline.
But it’s ok. If you use effective ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing 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 triggered by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. 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 injured your ears.
This list isn’t complete, of course. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So watching for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any apparent symptoms. Damage will happen whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you detect any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary break.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get noisy, the goal is to safeguard your ears. 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 up and protect your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to control the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- You can leave the concert venue: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it may also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So when you need to protect 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 nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening restoring an old Corvette with loud power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to identify and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Keep an eye on 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.
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 awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these measures even with headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
Because if you really enjoy going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that as the years go on. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.