Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can cause problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. 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 irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use effective ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has taken place, particularly 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 injured your ears.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting 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 situation, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it isn’t like people say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices and is immediately captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the objective is to protect your ears. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most efficient way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: 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 reason not to have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. 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 venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it’s also the least enjoyable solution. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the show utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become significant.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mainly concerned with 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 attend concerts every night, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening repairing an old Corvette with loud power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to know 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 detect and record damage. You will also get the extra advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these measures even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
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.