Some activities are simply 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). The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can cause problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s left you with ringing ears. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But it’s ok. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
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 you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to avoid severe damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a strong indication that something is wrong. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, particularly if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never 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. That’s why you need to look out for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud noise. 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 amazingly (everybody sees 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? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Your hearing health is essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If you notice any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it may also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the show utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become severe.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get noisy, the aim is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and safeguard your ears. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. 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 team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Come in and see us: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
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 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 know 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. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.