Some activities are simply staples of summertime: 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). As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be a problem. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will wane.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe injury:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a strong indication that something is wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. 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 fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it’s not 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.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms at all. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got a few solutions, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and protect your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to control the sound, but it will be 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 set with you. This way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is essential so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- You can get out of the venue: Truthfully, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it will also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. 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 nightly, it’s not the same.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The better the fit, the better the 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 identify where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to identify and note any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this method, the precise 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 enjoy all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices 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 might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.