Some activities are just staples of summertime: Outdoor concerts, fireworks shows, state fairs, air shows, and NASCAR races (look, if you like watching cars drive around in circles, no one’s going to judge you). As more of these activities return to something like normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Because let’s be honest: this isn’t the first outdoor concert that’s left you with ringing ears. 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 diminish.
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 hurting
So how much attention should you be putting on your ears when you’re at that concert or air show?
Because, understandably, you’ll be pretty distracted.
Well, if you want to stop significant injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Headache: If you have a headache, something is probably not right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more pertinent. A pounding headache can be triggered by excessively loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to remain balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, particularly if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these noisy events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are sustaining damage. You shouldn’t necessarily neglect tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
This list is not complete, of course. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively 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 people say, “Ow, the little hairs in my ear hurt”. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms at all. Damage will happen whenever you’re exposed to overly loud sound. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
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 many decibels is too loud? And are you in a dangerous spot? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have a few options, and they vary in terms of how helpful they’ll be:
- Cover your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and protect your ears. Even though it won’t be as efficient 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 origin of the noise. You can give your ears a break while still having fun, but you might have to let go of your front row NASCAR seats.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Honestly, this is probably your best possible option if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it will also finish your fun. So if your symptoms are significant, consider getting out of there, but we get it if you’d rather pick a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the concert.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth trying the merch booth or vendor area. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and when it comes to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
- Keep a set 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 isn’t any reason not to have a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever. Now, if the volume begins to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
Are there any other methods that are more reliable?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re mainly 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 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 little more advanced methods in these situations. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- 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 warn you when the noise becomes dangerously high. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your volume monitor on your phone. Using this strategy, the exact decibel level that will harm your ears will be obvious.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can do a hearing test so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And when you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to detect and note any damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of individualized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may include custom earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The degree of protection improves with a better fit. 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 safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer events. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these steps 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 keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. If you’re not smart now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.