Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be a problem. 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 an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, naturally.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to remain balanced. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is happening. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud decibel levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting 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 anyone say. So looking out 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 detectable symptoms. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do notice 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 start to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. 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 a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- 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 decibel levels have caught you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover up and protect your ears. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! In other words, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you may have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out 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!
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it’s also the least enjoyable solution. So if your symptoms are serious, think about getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
Are there any other methods that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. 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 night 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:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to identify where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may 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 volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer events. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with 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 probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.