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, nobody’s going to judge you). As more of these events go back to something like normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are getting larger.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. This ringing, known as tinnitus, can be a sign that you’ve sustained hearing damage. And the more damage you do, the more your hearing will diminish.
But it’s ok. If you use reliable ear protection, all of this summer fun can be safely enjoyed.
How can you tell if your hearing is taking a beating?
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because, obviously, you’ll be pretty distracted.
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’s an indication that damage is happening. You shouldn’t necessarily ignore tinnitus just because it’s a relatively common condition.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong indication that something isn’t right. And when you’re attempting to gauge hearing damage this is even more relevant. Excessive volume can lead to a pounding headache. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is largely controlled by your inner ear. So if you’re feeling dizzy at one of these loud events, especially if that dizziness coincides with a rush of volume, this is another sign that damage has occurred.
Obviously, this list isn’t complete. Loud noise causes hearing loss because the excessively loud decibel levels damage the tiny hairs in your ear responsible for sensing vibrations in the air. And once these tiny hairs are destroyed, they never heal or grow back. That’s how delicate and specialized they are.
And the phrase “ow, my little ear hairs hurt” isn’t something you ever hear anyone say. That’s why you have to look out for secondary signs.
You also could be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud sound will result in damage. And the damage will worsen the longer the exposure continues.
What should you do when you notice symptoms?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone sees and is instantly captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a bit dizzy. What should you do? How many decibels is too loud? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? (How loud is 100 decibels, anyhow?)
Here are a few options that have different degrees of effectiveness:
- Try moving away from the origin of the noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you aren’t standing near the stage or a giant speaker! Put simply, try getting away from the origin of the noise. Perhaps that means letting go of your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: When things get loud, the goal is to protect your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have taken you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover 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 no protection. So there’s no excuse not to keep a set with you. That way, if things get a little too loud, you can simply pop these puppies in.
- You can leave the concert venue: Honestly, this is most likely your best possible solution if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it will also put an end to your fun. So if your symptoms are serious, consider leaving, but we get it if you’d rather find a way to protect your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are obtainable at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Typically, you won’t need to pay more than a few bucks, and with regards to the health of your hearing, that’s a bargain!
Are there more effective hearing protection methods?
So when you need to safeguard your ears for a short time at a concert, disposable earplugs will be fine. But it’s a little 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 evening repairing an old Corvette with noisy power tools.
You will want to use a bit more advanced methods in these scenarios. Those measures could include the following:
- Use a decibel monitoring app: Ambient noise is typically monitored by your smartphone automatically, but you can also get an app that can do that. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. In order to safeguard your ears, keep an eye on your decibel monitor on your phone. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to harm your ears.
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may mean over-the-ear headphones, but more likely, it will mean custom fitted earplugs. The better the fit, the better the protection. You can always bring these with you and put them in when the need arises.
- Come in and for a consultation: We can perform a hearing exam so that you’ll know where your hearing levels are right now. And it will be much easier to recognize and note any damage after a baseline is established. Plus, we’ll have a lot of personalized tips for you, all designed to keep your ears safe.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It might be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can safeguard your hearing and enjoy all these fabulous outdoor summer activities. You just have to take steps to enjoy these activities safely. You need to take these measures even with headphones. You will be able to make better hearing decisions when you know 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 keep doing that as the years go on. If you’re not smart now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.