Summertime has some activities that are simply staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these events are going back to normal.
And that can be a problem. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will wane.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent serious injury:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. You shouldn’t automatically dismiss tinnitus just because it’s a fairly common condition.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another indication that damage has taken place, 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: In general, a headache is a good indication that something is wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be caused by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
This list is not complete, obviously. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud noises can damage these hairs. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. So watching for secondary signs 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 whatsoever. Any exposure to loud noise will lead to 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 loving it), but then, you begin 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 are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, 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 and safeguard your ears. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Check the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth checking out the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- You can leave the venue: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, think about getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, be sure you’re not standing near the stage or a big speaker! In other words, try moving away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary break.
Are there any other methods that are more effective?
So when you need to protect your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a bit different when you’re a music-lover, and you go to concerts every night, 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 advanced methods in these situations. Those measures could include the following:
- Talk to us today: You need to know where your current hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and record damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will let you know. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this method, the precise decibel level that will damage your ears will be obvious.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can have fun at all those great summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you know 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 continue doing that in the future. Being sensible now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.