Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing as more of these activities 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. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing 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 activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, naturally.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is happening. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has taken place.
This list isn’t exhaustive, obviously. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce 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 everyone is digging 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 loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. Try to use something around 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 effective way to control the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, be sure you’re not standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! To put it bluntly, distance yourself from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- 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. 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 deal!
- 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 no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep 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.
- You can leave the venue: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it may also finish your fun. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about getting out if your symptoms become severe.
Are there any other methods that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly interested in protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But if you work in your garage every day restoring your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s not the same.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more profound steps to safeguard your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will let you know. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Speak with us today: You need to know where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be a lot easier to detect and note any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
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 will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. 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.
Because if you really love going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that in the future. If you’re not sensible now you might end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.