Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose 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 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 concert or air show?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to prevent significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has happened.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably not right. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge injury to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
This list isn’t exhaustive, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to 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 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 occur with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available 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 bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If you detect any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. In other words, try getting away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it’s also the least fun option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the show using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become severe.
- 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 caught you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- 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 no protection. So there’s no excuse not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly interested in protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend 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 loud power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more profound steps to safeguard your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can do a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be much easier to identify and note any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the extra advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 keep doing that in the future. If you’re not smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.