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, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these activities go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s left you with ringing ears. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing permanent 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, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid severe injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can trigger a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. That’s why you need to watch for secondary signs.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will lead to damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are loudest. Try using something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly takes you by surprise. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- 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 need to pay more than a few dollars, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there isn’t any reason not to keep a set in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- You can go someplace quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is really your best solution. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are serious, think about leaving, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a bit 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 evening restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more significant steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply 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 when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- 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 let you know. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the precise volume level that will damage your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
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 smart now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.