Summer has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can lead to issues. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud 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 as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. 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 means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t automatically ignore tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge damage to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So looking out for secondary symptoms will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud sound will lead to damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody 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 standing too close to the speakers? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have various degrees of effectiveness:
- You can leave the venue: If you really want to protect your ears, this is truthfully your best solution. But it’s also the least enjoyable option. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, think about using anything you can find to cover up and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re relatively effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a giant speaker! In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you may have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. 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 night repairing an old Corvette with loud power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these situations. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The level of protection increases with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Come in and see us: You need to know where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to detect and note any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added benefit of our personalized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable volume meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s relevant with anything, even your 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 a NASCAR race or an airshow or an outdoor summer concert, chances are, you’re going to want to continue doing that as the years go on. If you’re not sensible now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.