Some activities are just staples of summer: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you enjoy watching cars go around in circles, nobody’s going to judge you). The crowds, and the noise levels, are growing as more of these events are going back to normal.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after attending a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be an indication that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will deteriorate.
But don’t worry. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer activities (even NASCAR) without doing long-term damage to your ears.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an incredible concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, understandably, you’ll be fairly distracted.
You should watch for the following symptoms if you want to prevent severe injury:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is generally responsible for your ability to keep yourself balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has occurred, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you may have damaged your ears.
- Headache: If you’re experiencing a headache, something is probably wrong. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a less noisy setting.
- Tinnitus: This is a buzzing or ringing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud noises can harm these hairs. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, they will never heal. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And it’s not like you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Ow, the tiny hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you have to watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to happen with no symptoms whatsoever. Any exposure to loud sound will produce damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just awesomely (everyone sees and is immediately 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, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Your hearing health is important so the few dollars you pay will be well worth it.
- Put a little distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears begin to hurt, make sure you’re not standing near the stage or a big speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still enjoying yourself, but you may have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can go somewhere quieter: If you really want to safeguard your ears, this is really your best solution. But it may also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get loud, the goal is to protect 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. It won’t be the most effective way to limit the sound, but it will be better than no protection.
- Keep a set of cheap earplugs with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the ideal hearing protection, but they’re somewhat effective for what they are. So there’s no excuse 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.
Are there any other strategies that are more reliable?
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 restoring 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.
In these situations, you will want to take a few more serious steps to protect your hearing. Those measures could include the following:
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Ambient noise is usually 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 safeguarding your ears. This way, you’ll be able to easily see what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can do a hearing assessment so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And after 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 keep your ears safe.
- Wear 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 improves with a better fit. You can always bring these with you and put them in when you need them.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might 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 measures. You need to take these steps even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing choices when you understand 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 as the years go on. Being sensible now means you’ll be able to hear your favorite band years from now.