Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
And that can be an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. 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 noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, naturally, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. 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 occurred.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. You shouldn’t necessarily neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: If you have 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 strong indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the excessively loud decibel levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Well, you have a few options, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears start hurting, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a huge speaker! To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Keep a set 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 reason not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go someplace quieter: If you really want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it will also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage daily fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these situations. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be much easier to recognize and note any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the extra advantage of our personalized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
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 keep doing that as the years go on. If you’re not smart now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.