Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these activities are going back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending 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 irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is largely responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has happened, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a strong indication that something is wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can trigger a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to watch for secondary signs.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
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 loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it will also finish your fun. It would be understandable if you’d rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become severe.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try moving away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still enjoying yourself, but you may have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly concerned about safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. 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 night restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more profound steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: 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. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Speak with us today: We can do a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be a lot easier to recognize and record any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use professional or prescription level ear protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection increases with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. 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 choices when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 continue doing that in the future. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.