Summer 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). As more of these events return to something resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
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. That ringing is often called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the correct hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be triggered by overly loud volume. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. So if you feel dizzy at one of these loud events, particularly if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is happening. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list is not complete, of course. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for detecting vibrations in the air. And when an injury to these fragile hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that delicate.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone 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 take place with no symptoms at all. Damage will happen anytime you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone notices and is instantly entertained by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears begin to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. What should you do? How loud is too loud? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyway?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- You can leave the venue: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best solution. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are severe, think about getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. Try using something around you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume abruptly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as effective as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you detect any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. In other words, try moving away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Keep a pair of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair with you. This way, if things get a little too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you can’t find anything else. Typically, you won’t have to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re primarily interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But it’s a little 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 noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to get an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then warn you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When you need them, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- Speak with us today: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and record damage. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point stands: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these steps even with headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band years from now.