Some activities are simply staples of summertime: 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 noise levels, are growing as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. 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 sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to watch for secondary signs.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees and is immediately captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Honestly, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are significant, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Check 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. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Try distancing yourself from the origin of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you’re not standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! Essentially, distance yourself from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- 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 no protection. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
Are there any other methods 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 every day 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 little more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and see us: You need to recognize where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to identify and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be able to easily see 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 stands: you can enjoy all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these measures even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.