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 go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
And that can be an issue. 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 an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But don’t worry. With the proper hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing long-term 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 incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has taken place.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically ignore tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. 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 noise will produce damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody notices and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Well, you’ve got a few options, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- 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 takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most efficient way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If you notice any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try moving away from the source 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.
- You can go somewhere quieter: Truthfully, this is most likely your best possible solution if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it will also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to have a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily concerned with safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage daily restoring 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 bit more advanced methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Wear professional or prescription level ear protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- 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 loud. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and see us: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, 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 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.