Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing as more of these events are going back to normal.
And that can be an issue. 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 continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
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 know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong indication that something is wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Too many decibels can result in a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has occurred, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
This list is not complete, obviously. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting 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. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you need to look out for secondary signs.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no detectable symptoms. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud noise. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody 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 the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you’re not standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! Essentially, move further away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- You can get out of the concert venue: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best option. But it’s also the least enjoyable solution. So if your symptoms are severe, think about getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Keep a set 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 excuse not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop in these puppies.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts every night, 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.
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:
- Talk to us today: You need to recognize where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. 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 custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Use a decibel 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. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. 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 have fun at all those great summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, 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 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.