Summertime has some activities that are just staples: Air shows, concerts, fireworks, state fairs, Nascar races, etc. The crowds, and the noise levels, are getting larger as more of these activities 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. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. If you use reliable ear protection, all of these summer activities can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying yourself at an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be fairly distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to avoid severe injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another indication that damage has happened, 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 could have injured your ears.
This list isn’t exhaustive, obviously. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the extra loud volume levels harm the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear people say. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
You also could be developing hearing loss without any detectable symptoms. Damage will take place whenever you’re exposed to excessively loud sound. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you detect symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. What should you do? How loud is too loud? Are you standing too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. In other words, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a needed respite.
- You can go somewhere quieter: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible option if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it will also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, think about leaving, but we understand if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Bring cheap earplugs around 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. That way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop in these puppies.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. 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.
- Use anything to block your ears: The goal is to protect your ears when things are loudest. Try to use something near you to cover your ears if you don’t have earplugs and the high volume suddenly surprises you. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
Are there any other strategies that are more effective?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly interested in safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But if you work in your garage daily fixing 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 not the same.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and for a consultation: You need to recognize where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And after you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to notice and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Use professional or prescription level hearing protection. This could include custom 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.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Ambient noise is usually monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app for that. These apps will then notify you when the noise becomes dangerously loud. In order to protect your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the exact volume level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Okay, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can protect your hearing and enjoy all these wonderful outdoor summer activities. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these measures even with 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 continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not sensible now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.