Some activities are simply staples of summertime: 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 resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can bring about 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 an indication of something bad: hearing damage. And as you keep exposing your ears to these loud sounds, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the correct ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing lasting damage to your ears.
How can you know if your hearing is taking a beating?
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that air show or concert?
Because you’ll be rather distracted, understandably.
Well, if you want to prevent severe injury, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Headache: Generally, a headache is a good sign that something is wrong. And when you’re trying to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to stay balanced. 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 loud events and you feel dizzy you could have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
Needless to say, this list isn’t exhaustive. There are little hairs in your ears which are responsible for picking up vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
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 look out for secondary signs.
You also may be developing hearing loss with no noticeable symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. The longer you’re exposed, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you experience symptoms?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everyone is loving it), but then, you start to feel dizzy and your ears start to ring. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are some options that have different levels of effectiveness:
- You can get out of the venue: If you really want to protect your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it will also put an end to your fun. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert utilizing a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become severe.
- Put some distance between you and the source of noise: If you experience any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. You can give your ears a rest while still having fun, but you might have to give up your front row NASCAR seats.
- Check the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. So if you don’t have anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Usually, you won’t need to pay more than a few dollars, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a deal!
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the objective is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught 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.
- Bring cheap earplugs wherever you go: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. For what they are, they’re relatively effective and are better than nothing. So there’s no reason not to have a pair in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time period at a concert, disposable earplugs will do. But it’s a bit 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 repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Come in and see us: You need to recognize where your present hearing levels are, so come in and let us help. And it will be much easier to detect and record any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to protect your ears.
- Get an app that monitors decibel levels: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. These apps will then notify 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 capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This might mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
Have your cake and hear it, too
Alright, it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point holds: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple measures. You need to take these measures even with headphones. Understanding how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will probably want to continue doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.