Some activities are simply staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these activities go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
And that can be an issue. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s caused your ears to ring. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will decline.
But it’s ok. If you use effective ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
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 concert or air show?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious damage:
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably not right. This is certainly true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to remain balanced. Dizziness is another indication 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 ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is happening. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
This list isn’t complete, of course. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can harm these hairs. And when an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will produce damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
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 begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. 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.
- You can leave the concert venue: Honestly, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become extreme.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. Try to use 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 no protection.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. 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 might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
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 do. But if you work in your garage daily restoring your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football stadium or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and record damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Get an app that monitors volume levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the precise volume level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might 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 measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these measures even with headphones. Understanding 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. Being smart now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.