Summer has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy 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.
But sometimes this can bring about problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after going to 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. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent 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 pretty distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to prevent severe injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Too many decibels can result in a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never 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. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will produce damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How many decibels 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 several options, and they vary with regards to how effective they’ll be:
- You can go someplace less noisy: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. 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 protect your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become significant.
- 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 excuse not to keep a pair with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. It won’t be the most efficient way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. Go to 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.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Essentially, distance yourself from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. 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 stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s not the same.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more profound steps to protect your hearing. Those steps could include the following:
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and note any damage. You will also get the extra benefit of our individualized advice to help you keep your hearing safe.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
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 wonderful outdoor summer events. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really enjoy going to see an airshow or a NASCAR race or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to keep doing that as the years go on. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band decades from now.