Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can cause issues. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable 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, understandably, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to remain balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has occurred.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong sign that something isn’t right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list is not complete, of course. 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 when an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. 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 getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the objective is to safeguard your ears. Try to use something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can leave the concert venue: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable solution. So if your symptoms are serious, think about leaving, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a huge speaker! Essentially, move further away 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 necessary break.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs 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 pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every evening repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more profound steps to protect your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. 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 get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify 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 damage your ears.
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to know where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to identify and note any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the extra benefit of our personalized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
Because if you really love 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 capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.