Summer has some activities that are simply staples: 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 resembling normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
And that can be a problem. 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 a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you experience, the more your hearing will diminish.
But it’s ok. If you use effective 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 amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be fairly distracted.
Well, if you want to avoid significant injury, you should be looking out for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. 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 may have injured your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s a sign that damage is taking place. Tinnitus is rather common, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it.
- 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. And that’s a strong indication that you should find a quieter environment.
This list is not exhaustive, obviously. There are tiny hairs in your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and excessively loud sounds can damage these hairs. And once an injury to these delicate hairs occurs, there’s no way for them to heal. They’re that specialized and that fragile.
And the phrase “ow, my tiny ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you need to watch for secondary symptoms.
You also may be developing hearing loss without any noticeable symptoms. Damage will occur whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. The longer that exposure continues, the more severe the damage will become.
What should you do when you notice 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. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in the danger zone? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Well, you have a few solutions, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, back away from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. Perhaps that means giving up your front row NASCAR seats, but you can still enjoy the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- You can go someplace quieter: Truthfully, this is likely your best possible solution if you’re looking to safeguard your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun solution. So if your symptoms are severe, think about leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Find the merch booth: Some venues sell disposable earplugs. So if you can’t find anything else, it’s worth checking out 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 deal!
- Bring cheap earplugs around with you: Cheap earplugs are, well, cheap. They aren’t the best hearing protection in the world, but they’re moderately effective for what they are. So there’s no reason not to keep a set in your glove compartment, purse, or wherever else. This way, if things get a bit too loud, you can just pop these puppies in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the objective is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have caught you by surprise, consider 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 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 show. 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 team or NASCAR, or you go to concerts a lot, it’s a little different.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Here are a few steps in that direction:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is normally monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also download an app that can do that. When noise becomes too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to safeguard 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 encouraged This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean personalized earplugs. The degree of protection increases with a better fit. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can simply put them in.
- Talk to us today: We can do a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels currently are. And it will be a lot easier to identify and note any damage after a baseline is established. You will also get the added advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still protecting your hearing. You just have to take measures to enjoy these activities safely. And that’s true with anything, even your headphones. Knowing how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better choices about your hearing health.
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 keep doing that in the future. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.