Some activities are just staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed 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 the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
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 hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to stop significant damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another sign that damage has happened.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. 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 result in 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 loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have a few solutions, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- You can get out of the venue: If you actually want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are severe, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Use anything to cover 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, think about using anything you can find to cover up and safeguard your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to control the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t have to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But if you work in your garage every day fixing 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 a little different.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and see us: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to detect and note any damage after a baseline is established. 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 have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really enjoy 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 in the future. If you’re not sensible now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.