Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be a problem. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s left you with ringing ears. 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 sounds, you continue to do additional irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (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, understandably, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing 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. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
This list is not complete, obviously. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage 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 delicate.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms at all. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody sees and is instantly captivated 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? And are you in the danger zone? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got several solutions, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go somewhere quieter: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are significant, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover up and protect your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If you detect any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. To put it bluntly, move further away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. 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 repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will let you know. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this method, the exact volume level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and see us: You need to identify where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and record damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can have fun at all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
Because if you really love going to see an airshow or a NASCAR race 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 decades from now.