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 activities return to something like normal, the crowds, and the decibel levels, are growing.
But sometimes this can lead to problems. Let’s face it: you’ve had ringing in your ears after going to a concert before. That ringing is something called tinnitus, and it could be a sign of something bad: hearing damage. And as you continue to expose your ears to these loud noises, you continue to do further permanent damage to your hearing.
But don’t worry. With the proper ear protection, you’ll be able to enjoy those summer experiences (even NASCAR) without doing permanent damage to your ears.
How to know your hearing is suffering
So, you’re at the air show or enjoying an amazing concert, how much attention should you be paying to your ears?
Because you’ll be pretty distracted, understandably.
You should watch out for the following symptoms if you want to avoid serious injury:
- Dizziness: Your sense of balance is generally controlled by your inner ear. Dizziness is another signal that damage has happened, especially if it’s accompanied by a spike in volume. So if you’re at one of these loud events and you feel dizzy you could have damaged your ears.
- Headache: Generally speaking, a headache is a strong indication that something is wrong. This is definitely true when you’re trying to gauge injury to your hearing, too. Too many decibels can lead to a pounding headache. And that’s a good indication that you should find a quieter environment.
- Tinnitus: This is a ringing or buzzing in your ears. It’s an indication that damage is happening. You shouldn’t automatically neglect tinnitus simply because it’s a fairly common condition.
This list isn’t complete, obviously. There are little hairs inside of your ears which are responsible for detecting vibrations in the air and overly loud sounds can damage 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 people say. So looking out for secondary signs will be the only way you can know if you’re developing hearing loss.
It’s also possible for damage to occur with no symptoms whatsoever. Damage will happen whenever you’re exposed to overly loud noise. And the damage will get worse the longer the exposure continues.
When you do notice symptoms, what should I do?
You’re getting your best groove on (and everybody is digging it), but then, you begin to feel dizzy and your ears start ringing. How loud is too loud and what should you do? And are you in a dangerous spot? How should you know how loud 100 decibels is?
Here are a few options that have various levels of effectiveness:
- You can go someplace less noisy: If you actually want to safeguard your ears, this is honestly your best option. But it’s also the least fun option. So if your symptoms are serious, consider getting out of there, but we understand if you’d rather pick a way to safeguard your hearing and enjoy the show.
- Put some distance between you and the origin of noise: If your ears start hurting, make sure you’re not standing next to the stage or a big speaker! Essentially, distance yourself 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.
- Use anything to cover your ears: When things get noisy, the goal is to safeguard your ears. So if you don’t have any earplugs and the decibel levels have taken you by surprise, consider using anything around you to cover and safeguard your ears. Even though it won’t be as efficient as approved hearing protection, something is better than nothing.
- Find the merch booth: Disposable earplugs are available at some venues. Go to the merch booth for earplugs if you don’t have anything else. Your hearing health is important so the few bucks you pay will be well worth it.
- 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 set with you. Now, if the volume starts to get a little too loud, you simply pull them out and pop them in.
Are there better hearing protection methods?
So, disposable earplugs will work when you’re primarily 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 nightly, it’s not the same.
You will want to use a little more advanced methods in these situations. Here are some steps in that direction:
- Professional or prescription level hearing protection is recommended This may include personalized earplugs or over-the-ear headphones. The better the fit, the better the protection. When need arises, you will have them with you and you can just put them in.
- 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 once you have a recorded baseline, it will be easier to observe and record damage. Plus, we’ll have all kinds of personalized tips for you, all tailored to keep your ears safe.
- Use a decibel 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 protecting your ears. This way, you’ll be capable of easily seeing what decibel level is loud enough to damage your ears.
Have your cake and hear it, too
It may be a mixed metaphor but you get the point: you can enjoy all those awesome summer activities while still safeguarding your hearing. You will enjoy those activities safely by taking a few simple steps. You need to take these measures even with headphones. Identifying how loud is too loud for headphones can help you make better decisions about your hearing health.
As the years go on, you will most likely want to keep doing all of your favorite outdoor summer activities. Being sensible now means you’ll be capable of hearing your favorite band decades from now.
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