Some activities are simply staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these events are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can cause issues. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use effective ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, understandably, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious damage:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms at all. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in a dangerous spot? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Bring cheap earplugs around 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 compartment, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly takes you by surprise. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If you experience any ear pain, distance yourself from the speakers. To put it bluntly, move further away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary break.
- You can get out of the venue: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become extreme.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a little 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 restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Come in and see us: We can do 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 observe and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection increases 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
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.