Some activities are just staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can bring about problems. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will wane.
But it’s ok. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to stop significant damage, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect it.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has happened, especially 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.
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a good indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter setting.
This list is not complete, obviously. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you’ve got a few solutions, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the aim is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and protect your ears. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: If you really want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it’s also the least fun solution. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become extreme.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- 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 nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly 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 team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app for that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can enjoy all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.