Summer has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will wane.
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 suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to keep yourself 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 injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should seek a quieter setting.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. 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 whatsoever. Any exposure to loud sound will lead to damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If you detect any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try moving away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed break.
- You can go someplace less noisy: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are severe, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover and protect your ears. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re primarily interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. 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 stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more profound steps to protect your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. You will also get the added benefit of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Get an app that monitors volume 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. Keep an eye on your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. Using this method, the precise volume level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection increases with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. 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 recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really love 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 as the years go on. If you’re not smart now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.