Summer has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can bring about problems. 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 the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, naturally, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid severe injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is happening. You shouldn’t necessarily dismiss tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to remain balanced. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a charge of volume, this is another indication that damage has occurred.
- 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. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Loud noise leads to hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, they will never heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And it’s not like people 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 detectable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Well, you have a few solutions, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you simply 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 suddenly takes you by surprise. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. Check out the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is really your best solution. But it may also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the show using a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still consider getting out if your symptoms become significant.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you experience any ear pain, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still enjoying yourself, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
Are there better 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 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 a lot, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This could include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The level of protection improves with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Keep an eye on your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Come in and see us: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be a lot easier to identify and record any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can have fun at all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. And that’s true with anything, even your headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being smart now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.