Summertime 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 activities return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can bring about issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s caused your ears to ring. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But it’s ok. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
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 for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, especially 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 damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. You shouldn’t automatically dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like people say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to look out for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you have a few solutions, and they vary in terms of how effective they’ll be:
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than no protection. 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.
- Use anything to cover your ears: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are too loud. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try moving away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: If you really want to protect your ears, this is really your best option. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are serious, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. 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 bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly concerned with safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a little 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 evening repairing 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:
- Talk to us today: We can perform a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app for that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will let you know. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. Using this strategy, the precise decibel level that can damage your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is encouraged This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
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 safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you understand how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really enjoy going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to keep doing that in the future. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.