Some activities are just staples of summertime: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. As more of these events return to something like normal, the crowds, and the noise levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can cause problems. Let’s face it: you’ve noticed ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. 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 sounds, you continue to do additional irreversible damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use effective hearing protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How to know your hearing is suffering
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, naturally.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to avoid severe damage:
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is occurring. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. 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 speaking, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. And that’s a good indication that you should seek a quieter setting.
Needless to say, this list isn’t complete. 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 once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. 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 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 occur with no symptoms at all. Any exposure to loud sound will produce damage. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everybody sees 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. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to 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.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, think about using anything around you to cover up and protect your ears. It won’t be the most effective way to reduce the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re relatively 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.
- You can get out of the venue: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mostly interested in protecting your hearing for a couple of hours at a show. But it’s a bit 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 evening restoring an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: You need to know where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to identify and record any damage once a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
- 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. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. Monitor your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always take these with you and put them in when the need arises.
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 will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really love going to see a NASCAR race or an airshow 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 decades from now.