Some activities are just staples of summertime: 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.
And that can be an issue. Let’s face it: you’ve had 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 continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further irreversible damage to your hearing.
But it’s ok. With the proper hearing protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (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 yourself at 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 on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Dizziness: Your inner ear is primarily responsible for your ability to stay balanced. Dizziness is another signal that damage has taken place, especially 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 damaged your ears.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It means your ears are taking damage. Tinnitus is fairly common, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.
- Headache: In general, a headache is a good indication that something isn’t right. This is definitely true when you’re attempting to gauge injury to your hearing, too. A pounding headache can be caused by overly loud volume. If you find yourself in this scenario, seek a quieter setting.
Needless to say, 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 sounds can harm these hairs. And once these tiny hairs are damaged, they never heal or grow back. That’s how fragile and specialized they are.
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 could be developing hearing loss with no apparent symptoms. Any exposure to loud noise will produce damage. The longer that exposure continues, the more significant the damage will become.
When you do detect symptoms, what should I do?
You’re rocking out just amazingly (everyone notices and is immediately captivated by how hard you rock, you’re the life of the party) when your ears start to ring, and you feel a little dizzy. How loud is too loud and what should you do? Are you hanging too close to the speakers? How are you supposed to know how loud 100 decibels is?
Well, you’ve got several solutions, and they vary with regards to how helpful they’ll be:
- 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. Typically, you won’t have 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. For what they are, they’re moderately effective and are better than no protection. So there’s no reason not to keep a pair in your glove box, purse, or wherever else. Now, if the volume starts to get a bit too loud, you just pull them out and pop them in.
- Block your ears with, well, anything: The goal is to protect your ears when things are too loud. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the volume levels have caught you by surprise, consider using anything you can find to cover and protect your ears. Although it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- You can go somewhere less noisy: Honestly, this is probably your best possible solution if you’re looking to protect your hearing health. But it’s also the least fun solution. It would be understandable if you would rather stay and enjoy the concert using a different way to safeguard your hearing. But you should still think about leaving if your symptoms become extreme.
- Try distancing yourself from the source of the noise: If you notice any pain in your ears, distance yourself from the speakers. Put simply, try getting away from the source of the noise. Maybe that means giving up your front row seats at NASCAR, but you can still have fun at the show and give your ears a necessary respite.
Are there more effective hearing protection strategies?
So, disposable earplugs will do when you’re mostly concerned with safeguarding your hearing for a couple of hours at a concert. But if you work in your garage daily fixing 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 not the same.
You will want to use a little more sophisticated 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 a lot easier to identify and note any damage once a baseline is established. You will also get the extra advantage of our individualized advice to help you keep your ears safe.
- Use a volume monitoring app: Most modern smartphones will be able to download an app that monitors the ambient noise. When noise gets too loud, these apps will sound an alert. Keep an eye on your own portable decibel meter to ensure you’re safeguarding your ears. Using this method, the precise volume level that can harm your ears will be obvious.
- Wear professional or prescription level hearing protection. This could include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the hearing protection. You can always bring 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 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 choices when you recognize how loud is too loud for headphones.
Because if you really love 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. If you’re not sensible now you could end up losing your hearing and also your summer fun.