Some activities are just 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 getting larger as more of these events are getting back to normal.
But sometimes this can cause problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s left you with ringing ears. 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 diminish.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear 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 how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
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 not right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, especially if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you may have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everybody sees and is immediately captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you’ve got a few options, and they vary when it comes to how effective they’ll be:
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it may also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get noisy, the aim is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover and protect your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues 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.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a huge speaker! Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. 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 bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Those steps could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Wear 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 simply put them in.
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer events. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s relevant with everything, even your headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.