Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger as more of these events are getting back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first loud concert that’s left you with ringing ears. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. If you use effective ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, understandably.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another indication that damage has occurred, particularly if it’s accompanied by a change in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have injured your ears.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge damage to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are tiny hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once 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 anyone say. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can detect 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 result in 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 everybody is loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have several solutions, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- You can go someplace quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it will also finish your fun. It would be understandable if you’d 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 significant.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to safeguard your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover up and safeguard your ears. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. 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 just pull them out and pop them in.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Put a little distance between you and the source of noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. Essentially, move further away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly concerned with safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a little different when you’re a music-lover, and you attend concerts nightly, or you have season tickets to NASCAR or football games, or you work in your garage every night restoring an old Corvette with loud power tools.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these situations. Those steps could include the following:
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Wear professional or prescription level ear protection. This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and note any damage. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, 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 just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
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 years from now.