Summer has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
And that can be an issue. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s caused your ears to ring. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t necessarily neglect tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily 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 injured your ears.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it isn’t like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. So watching for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can detect if you’re developing hearing loss.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Damage will occur anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone 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 bit dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- You can get out of the venue: Truthfully, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues will sell disposable earplugs. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Your hearing health is essential so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- Use anything to block your ears: When things get noisy, the aim is to safeguard your ears. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly takes you by surprise. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed 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 it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- 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 notify you when the noise becomes dangerously high. Monitor your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
- Wear professional or prescription level hearing protection. This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
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 will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true 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 probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.