Some activities are simply staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing as more of these events are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can bring about problems. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will decline.
But don’t worry. If you use effective hearing 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, naturally, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good 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. And that’s a strong indication that you should seek a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees and is immediately entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got a few options, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it will also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is essential so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, back away from the speakers. In other words, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Maybe 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 respite.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most efficient way to limit the sound, but it will be better than nothing.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily concerned about protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend 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 loud power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Speak with us today: You need to identify where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and record damage. You will also get the extra benefit of our personalized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Wear professional or prescription level ear protection. This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. These apps will then alert you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to protect 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 damage your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you know 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 keep doing that in the future. Being smart now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.