Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars go around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these activities go back to something resembling 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 left you with ringing ears. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the proper hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to stop significant injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically disregard tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has happened.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Damage will take place anytime you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have several options, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a big speaker! In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no excuse not to keep a pair with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is really your best option. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are significant, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. 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 and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But if you work in your garage daily restoring your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s not the same.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. 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 might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the exact volume level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can have fun at all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really love going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to keep doing that in the future. Being smart now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.