Some activities are just staples of summer: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor 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 sounds, you continue to do additional permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use effective ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
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, naturally, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another indication that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily disregard tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. This is certainly true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So watching for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- You can leave the concert venue: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues will 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 when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are loudest. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you notice any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time period 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 nightly, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these situations. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Talk to us today: You need to recognize where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to detect and record any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the added benefit of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the precise volume level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the protection. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really enjoy going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that in the future. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.