Some activities are just staples of summertime: 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). The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had 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 continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the proper hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
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 you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to avoid significant damage, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Too many decibels can trigger a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has happened.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these tiny 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 little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to look out for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will happen whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Your hearing health is essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go someplace quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it will also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become extreme.
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If you notice any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a needed break.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most efficient way to control the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Bring cheap earplugs around 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 have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
Are there any other methods that are more reliable?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But if you work in your garage every day restoring your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: 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 safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the precise volume level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. 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.
- Come in and see us: You need to recognize 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 notice and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized 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 safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.