Summer has some activities that are just staples: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like 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 growing.
And that can be an issue. 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 a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will deteriorate.
But don’t worry. If you use effective hearing protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, naturally.
Well, if you want to stop severe damage, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t automatically dismiss tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another indication that damage has occurred.
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Too many decibels can trigger a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these tiny hairs occurs, they will never heal. 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 signs.
It’s also possible for damage to take place with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will happen anytime you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer you’re exposed, 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 loving it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. 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 different levels of effectiveness:
- 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. Your hearing health is essential so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Try moving away from the source of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing next to the stage or a huge speaker! To put it bluntly, move further away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- You can leave the concert venue: Truthfully, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun option. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to protect your hearing. But you should still consider leaving if your symptoms become significant.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a set with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get noisy, the aim is to safeguard your ears. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Although it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there better hearing protection strategies?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But if you work in your garage every day fixing your old Chevelle with power tools, or if you have season tickets to your favorite football team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts nightly, it’s a little different.
In these cases, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do 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. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The degree 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 for a consultation: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be much easier to recognize and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to protect your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. And that’s relevant with anything, even your headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you know how loud is too loud for headphones.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you may end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.